Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

June 30, 2017 at 8:26am

Team McChord chaplains uplift airmen

Capt. Thomas Simmons, McChord Field chaplain, poses for a photo June 22 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez

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Dressed in the same uniform as the airmen they serve, Team McChord chaplains do more than preach and pray.

Charged with the responsibility to spiritually advise and counsel airmen and leadership, chaplains help keep airmen mission-ready and resilient to overcome work and home stresses.

"What I'm finding is that a lot of airmen haven't been able to find their spiritual foundation," said Capt. Thomas Simmons, McChord Field chaplain. "As chaplains, we are here for spiritual accommodation according to what is meaningful and relevant to your life whether it be your religion or a matter of conscience."

A confidential outlet for airmen to reach out to, chaplains provide counseling in a wide variety of areas and administer spiritual services for airmen of different religions, or no religion.

"We want every airman to have a strong spiritual foundation to overcome life stressors," said Simmons.

"Advising is not always of religious nature but many times of ethical and moral nature." 

Besides working directly with airmen, chaplains work on behalf of airmen through advising unit leadership.

"We should always be mission-minded," said Simmons. "Commanders rely on chaplains to ensure they have the trust of their airmen and they're willing to make tough decisions to earn their trust."

Chaplains provide motivational and inspirational advice and support to airmen at their work centers.

"We want to ensure airmen are feeling appreciated and recognized, and to remind them that they have an advocate to represent them," said Simmons. "When they are on the flightline in freezing cold, a hot cup of morale and a pack of cookies will go a long way."

Chaplains work to help airmen navigate the stressors of everyday life, said Chaplain Capt. Jammie Bigbey, McChord Field chaplain.

"I believe life can be challenging for anyone, now add deployments, additional duties and trainings, along with the uncertainty of how world events may affect your life if a call to war comes," said Bigbey. "I want to be there to help airmen and families navigate their lives and achieve their calling."

Stressors for airmen can cause a crisis and interfere with them doing the mission, said Simmons.  

"In the midst of an emergency situation or some level of crisis, we provide counseling to include suicidal thoughts, depression, domestic violence, sexual assaults or whatever impedes airmen from being fully available to do the mission," said Simmons. "We want to get you solution-focused and make airmen available again to fulfill the mission and their families."

Not your everyday pastor, chaplains undergo extensive training prior to receiving the title of chaplain. They are required to receive an endorsement from an ecclesiastical body, hold a master's degree or higher in theology or religious studies and be ordained as a minister or spiritual leader. Prior to entering the Air Force Chaplain Corps, they are required to have served two years in ministry, attend commissioned officer training and the Air Force Basic Chaplain Course.

"We are required to have a level of confidence and proficiency in our responsibilities," said Simmons. "We want to make sure we are professionals in the profession of our faith."

A mandatory requirement for all chaplains is to uphold 100 percent confidentiality for all airmen they serve.

"This creates a safe place to talk about anything," said Bigbey. "Everybody has many human dynamics to them and it is important to have chaplains who can speak into the various contexts where people are involved."

Chaplains hold different professions of faith but provide an array of religious services and material to airmen of every faith group. Their services include couples counseling, marriage counseling, grief counseling, anger management, family counseling, resiliency and marriage retreats, and the officiation of marriage.     

To contact the McChord Chapel, call 253.982.5556.

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