Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

March 25, 2016 at 9:03am

Chaplains enrich airmen's wings

Chaplain (Col.) Gary Califf, Air Force Reserve Command chief chaplain with citizen airmen from the 446th Airlift Wing Chaplain Corps during the March Reserve weekend here March 6, 2016. Courtesy photo

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Rainier Wing citizen airmen congregated for a commander's call, filling Hangar 9 to the max during the Reserve weekend March 6, to hear messages from leadership, including Psychological Health and the wing chaplain.

After the assembly, Chaplain (Col.) Gary Califf, Air Force Reserve Command chief chaplain, shed light on the importance of these events framed through a chaplain's eyes.

"The Reserve Triad of family-job-(Air Force Reserve) duty results in a blur of demands for most of our citizen airmen," he said. "The Wingman Day provides a time to stop, smell the sweet flowers of success, hear the unit challenges from the (wing commander), and rally around important issues."

Without such events, which place everyone in the same place at the same time for the same messaging, people are just pieces of a large puzzle, Califf explained. Some call that stove-piping, but it really results in the feelings that people are detached from the whole.

Understanding where the pieces fit to accomplish a mission is a key component in how a wing acts as one.

"Everyone knows the Wing has a mission. However, at times we don't absorb the truth everyone prospers by feeling they're part of something larger than themselves," the Chaplain said. "My little job is meaningful, as is each sprocket in the wheel. To experience how it all fits together by having everyone participating in one cheering session, one topical briefing in the same room enhances everyone's effectiveness."

During the event, Jeannie Morrow, the 446th Airlift Wing director of Psychological Health, shared the struggle she has with her fear of flying. Her story resounded with Chaplain Califf, who further framed these battles through the eyes of a chaplain.

"We all struggle with something that affects our career, family and finances in bad ways," he said. "To decide to get the help one needs puts an end to the suffering we often bring on ourselves. And, as we know, when one part suffers - all are affected. The reminder to get assistance when things get difficult, before life spins out of control, yields a much healthier and effective unit pursuing mission accomplishment."

When asked to share his insight into the importance of the chaplain corps in providing spiritual care for airmen and their families, he passed a story.

"One commander I spoke with several years ago said, ‘when you have a good chaplain corps team in your wing, you know it. You feel it. You might not be able to measure it in metrics or chart it, but you just feel it, and you know it,'" Califf explained.

Listening is a vital element transforming a good chaplain into a great one.

"Great chaplains and chaplain assistants listen to the stories of airmen, discern what theme is helpful, and encourage folks to experience what they need at that time and place," he said. "We can listen and provide a perspective on ways of letting go, discovering peace. In the moral realms, the chaplain corps is a reminder of the sacred in life, important core values, and perhaps a divine presence."

Chaplains and chaplain assistants also serve as Religious Support Teams to meaningfully engage with troops in their workplaces in order to assess morale, and develop rapport with the troops, said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Pierre Allegre, 446th AW wing chaplain. Chaplains also provide pastoral care and counseling - which is 100-percent confidential - and advise commanders on matters concerning religion, ethics and unit morale.

"In the 446th, we try to speak encouraging words at commanders' calls in order to reach as many airmen as possible, in hopes that if we engage with them at those large events, they'll feel more inclined to come see us in the future if they ever have a need," Allegre said. "We also provide short worship services in various workplaces during the (Reserve weekends) - not only to meet the religious needs of airmen, but also to train to lead the kinds of worship services we're likely to conduct downrange when we deploy."

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