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    The embodiment of resiliency

    The embodiment of resiliency

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Rita Jimenez | U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael N. Frese, 122nd Fighter Wing chaplain, Indiana Air...... read more read more

    FORT WAYNE, IN, UNITED STATES

    08.01.2020

    Story by Staff Sgt. Rita Jimenez 

    122nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

    FORT WAYNE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ind. - Fulfilling the needs of the military can often result in hardship. Often, these experiences shape us and prove how very resilient we are.

    U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael N. Frese, 122nd Fighter Wing chaplain, has a steadfast faith, unwavering courage and a purpose that helped him endure adversity throughout his military career.

    In the beginning, Frese was compelled to join the Army. There was a surge in the Iraq War and a significant shortage of Army chaplains. Frese and his wife, now married 23 years, were enticed by the Army’s active duty recruiting push called the “Edelweiss Program.” It guaranteed new recruits Germany as their first duty station.

    Not long after moving to Germany, Frese deployed to Iraq for 15 months, leaving his wife and two children behind in a foreign country.

    “It was a long time to be apart for a family,” said Frese. “They wouldn’t let families move back to the States to be with family support systems.

    Deployments during this time were happening on a regular cycle, so dwell times were shortened to meet mission requirements. Because he had the most dwell time between deployments of other chaplains in the command, a last second decision was made to quickly move Frese and his family from Germany to Fort Knox, Kentucky. There, he joined an infantry unit deploying to Afghanistan for 12 months.

    This heavy hardship put Frese’s family 10 hours from his nearest family and 20 hours from his wife’s.

    “We did a lot of praying for strength because of the unit I was going in,” said Frese. “I was going into an infantry unit that was going to the frontline of Afghanistan. It was an extremely dangerous mission.”

    While deployed, Frese was the only chaplain for a joint task force composed of 1,200 U.S. military members and civilians. This stand-alone force was located in an extremely hostile, Taliban-controlled area of Afghanistan. Frese provided religious support for its five forward operating bases.

    “The area was extremely hostile and the Taliban owned the area before we came in,” said Frese. “We were new to their territory and their tactic was, ‘If we hit them hard, they will leave.’”

    Wanting the task force to go away, the Taliban hit the five bases with direct and indirect fire. This occurred daily for six months. Frese’s base was no exception.

    “There were over 120 rockets that hit my small FOB,” said Frese.

    Frese was in the close vicinity of 20 rocket impacts, each having a 60-foot kill radius. One rocket landed 15 feet away, shredding everything around.

    “It knocked me out,” Frese said. “It knocked me to the ground. It shredded the tent I was in.”

    The blast gave Frese internal injuries, traumatic brain injury and ringing in his ears. He had migraines daily that subsided to weekly, then sporadically throughout the month.

    “I wasn’t hit with shrapnel, but I was knocked out,” said Frese. “The blast, the concussion blast of these, you can’t really describe it.”

    Frese’s injuries were minor compared to the bleeding and wounded, so he immediately went to the medical tent, as was the standard operating procedure after an attack. There, he assisted medics and gave spiritual support until Army medevac helicopters arrived.

    Despite his injuries, Frese remained deployed and continued to provide religious support. Unarmed, he would walk alongside infantry Soldiers so that he could talk with them on their mission outside the wire. Frese saw this time as an opportunity to discuss the big things in life.

    “Life, death, relationships, futures, career choices, you talk about all manner of things, religious choices,” Frese said. “I would go out on these patrols to engage these soldiers in meaningful conversations.”

    Walking on these patrols was no easy task. The Taliban would start shooting from 500 to 700 yards away. Constantly on alert, Frese and his infantry Soldiers had to scan the horizon and homes for Taliban fighters.

    “My infantry Soldiers would jokingly talk with me as we were walking,” said Frese. “They were like, ‘Chaplain, you’re crazy! You are the bravest guy in Afghanistan. I’d never be out here without a weapon.’ And, I would just say ‘You know guys, there are 24 heavily armed Soldiers walking with me. I think I have a pretty good security detail. I’m good.’”

    Those experiences shaped Frese and made him the resilient person that he is today.

    “Being resilient is having a purpose,” said Frese. “It doesn’t matter if there is adversity within that purpose, if you have the purpose you can get through the adversity because the military gives you the tools to overcome adverse situations.”

    Chaplains play a very vital role in giving people a purpose. They help answer the big questions that are on the forefront of everyone’s mind. They also provide, or provide for the freedom of religion and have 100% confidentiality. This is known as “privileged communication.”

    “This is unique to the chaplain corps,” said Frese. “We provide a safety for Airmen to come bounce off big ideas that could become controversial if they go to a psychologist or a doctor or a lawyer. They have limitations on what they can keep confidential.”

    The mission of the 122nd FW Chaplains Office is to provide spiritual care to the Airmen of the 122nd FW. They ensure that all Airmen and their families are given opportunities to exercise their constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. They also advise leadership at all levels.

    If you need to talk to a chaplain call the 122nd FW Chaplains Office at 1-260-478-3315 or emergency 24 hours a day 1-260-478-3216.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 08.01.2020
    Date Posted: 08.02.2020 16:27
    Story ID: 375107
    Location: FORT WAYNE, IN, US 
    Hometown: FORT WAYNE, IN, US

    Web Views: 167
    Downloads: 0
    Podcast Hits: 0

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