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    Religious Support Teams enhance Airmen’s spiritual wellbeing

    Religious Support Teams enhance Airmen’s spiritual wellbeing

    Photo By Senior Airman Jean-Paul Arnaud-Marquez | Chaplains and religious affairs Airmen showcase their two core functions, advising...... read more read more

    BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - The Airman Ministry Center has a welcoming and inviting ambience. Airmen go there to decompress, enjoy some downtime, and recharge before their next shift. Some do this by watching a movie, playing a board game, or simply lounging and reading. But this environment isn’t just about a quiet place with nice amenities; it’s also about the people who pour their heart and soul into taking care of the facility, but more importantly, the Airmen who spend time there.
    One of the main intentions behind the newly repurposed building, which sits on the east side of Bagram Airfield, is to provide Airmen from the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing a common area that allows them a place to relax during their downtime.
    Chaplain (Maj.) Kenneth Devoie, deputy wing chaplain, said the AMC provides a great place for the chaplain staff to interact and engage with Airmen in a relaxed environment.
    “The east side AMC is in the heart of maintenance and has easy access to the flight line,” he added. “It’s a perfect location to launch our Squadron Focused Warrior Care for our Airmen.”
    Chaplains and religious affairs Airmen perform two core functions: advising leadership and delivering spiritual care. These Airmen advise leadership on moral, spiritual, and ethical issues that may arise within various units. They also deliver spiritual care through unit engagement, special programming, spiritual services and social events.
    Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Mark Nevius, wing chaplain, said his main concern was the well-being of Airmen and the sustainment, or cultivation, of their spirituality.
    “I believe it’s important that the chaplain corps attempts to help Airmen see the necessity of that spirituality in their life,” he said. “Spirituality is different than religion -- we are here to ensure our Airmen are taken care of and are prepared to perform their mission effectively.”
    The religious affairs Airmen at Bagram are broken up into religious support teams, or RSTs, in order to more efficiently cover a wider area of the installation. Each team includes one chaplain and one religious affairs Airman.
    Technical Sgt. Shaun Reagan, noncommissioned officer in charge of religious affairs, said his formula for success has been integrating himself into the wing’s culture by volunteering his time to help in any way he can. He spends most of his time visiting workers and patients in Bagram’s Craig Joint Theater Hospital.
    “The best way to get to know somebody is to get hands-on and work with them,” he said. “We could be bringing patients in from the helicopter, and as soon as it's over, someone may come up to me and tell me how they’re feeling.”
    “Because I’ve gotten to know people through volunteering, I’ve gotten to see when they’re acting different, and sometimes I’ll initiate that conversation by simply asking how they’re doing,” he added.
    This is a unique concept that characterizes the strategy being implemented by the chaplain corps. The RSTs make their daily rounds, and those consistent visits ensure there’s a strong rapport and confidence between them and the Airmen they serve. This also provides the RSTs with an opportunity to inform Airmen about the multiple services and capabilities they have to offer.
    “Chaplains have a unique calling in that we have confidentiality in all of our counseling,” said Nevius. “And that opens up many doors of ministry and service.”
    Nevius often energetically greets Airmen with a “Hallelujah!” and takes time to engage with them for a quick chat, in-depth conversation, or counseling and mentoring. As the RSTs stop by at each office, Airmen get the opportunity to tell them about their day and how they’re doing, and request additional spiritual support if needed.
    “We are in a deployed environment where most people are away from their families, so it’s important for us to take the time to ask how Airmen’s days are going. It really has a big impact,” said Master Sgt. Hannah Vigilia, superintendent of religious affairs.
    “Our job is to take care of Airmen and offer them advice. We’re like a lighthouse that guides Airmen through dark or difficult times,” she added.
    The Airman Ministry Center houses the Airman’s Attic, where Airmen can pick up free uniform items that have been donated. This program is maintained by the religious affairs Airmen and other volunteers. The AMC is also the centralized location where many of the religious study opportunities, financial advice courses and social events occur.
    Regardless of religious backgrounds or beliefs, the chaplain corps stands ready to serve all Airmen by ensuring their spiritual needs are satisfied. Nevius said this spiritual wellness contributes to mission effectiveness, and his team gets great job satisfaction.
    “I have a great passion to serve our Airmen and their families,” said Nevius. “We have an outstanding team that truly does a remarkable job. We all deployed here not knowing each other, and to see how we’ve come together to serve a greater purpose has been incredible.”
    The 455th Air Expeditionary Wing is the Air Force’s premier counterterrorism wing in Afghanistan and supports Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support mission. Headquartered at Bagram, the wing has geographically separated units at Kandahar and Jalalabad airfields in Afghanistan and provides decisive airpower throughout the region.



    Date Taken: 02.19.2019
    Date Posted: 02.19.2019 02:23
    Story ID: 311083
    Location: AF

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