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Spiritual readiness takes flight

By Senior Airman Anthony Nin Leclerec 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

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In order to maintain air superiority, the 1st Fighter Wing depends on combat ready Airmen across the flightline – to include spiritual health.

To enhance readiness, the 1st Maintenance Group provided office space for a chaplain and a religious affairs Airman to be embedded, allowing the 1st FW Airmen to have more face time and support from the Chaplain Corps.

“We want to end up providing some type of spiritual cafe or some type of inviting presence for people to be able to swing by, hang out for a little while, de-stress, have a cup of coffee before going back to work,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Eli Dowell, 633rd Air Base Wing deputy wing chaplain.

The 633rd ABW Chaplain Corps provides support for all tenant organizations on base. Several of these organizations have an embedded chaplain with them such as the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance wings, as well as Air National Guard.

According to Dowell, the experience for other embedded chaplains has been overwhelmingly positive. Their proximity makes it much easier to stay constantly involved in counseling and commander’s calls among other important duties.

Dowell says that being embedded within an organization creates a lot of opportunities for impromptu conversations because of visibility and availability.

“They see us and they realize, ‘hey, that’s my chaplain,’” Dowell said. “[Airmen can say] ‘my chaplain sits right down the hall from me or two buildings over from me.’”

The four parts of Comprehensive Airman Fitness are: mental, physical, social and spiritual health.

“We used to use the term pillars, we've gotten away from the word pillars and gone to domains, because pillars stand alone while domains touch each other,” Dowell said. “The idea is that each of these domains influence and affect one another.”

The Chaplain Corps sees the spiritual domain as core values; things that motivate and give purpose and direction in life.

“If there's something wrong in our spiritual domain, it's going to affect all the other domains,” Dowell said. “The spiritual domain drives us to go okay, this is why I'm studying this manual, this is why I need to be on point at work, this is why I need to be available for my family. If we don't have that spiritual drive, it can really inhibit us from being as focused and present as we need to be.”

Though all chaplains come with an ecclesiastical endorsement ordained by a church or religious organization, they are able to speak with and meet people where they are spiritually.  

“I'm Baptist,” Dowell said. “If somebody comes to me and they said they're Catholic or agnostic, I can help them navigate their own spiritual understanding and connect the dots between, this is my view of the world, this is my view of humanity and this is my job.”

A new program that the chaplains have been working on is called Readiness Integrating Spiritual Empowerment or RISE. Here, the spiritual component is being looked at as foundational to the other domains. This offers a renewed focus on readiness will come about, driven by purpose.

Each month will focus on a new theme, targeting real stressors that Airmen are facing. Among these topics are: relationships, burnout, stress management, and post-traumatic stress.

“In April, we’re actually going to talk about sexual behaviors,” Dowell said. “Because it’s such a current real-life topic, we're going to have just kind of a menu of talking points that can be spoken on if we’re invited to a commander’s call or a squadron event.”

Now embedded in the 1st FW, at the 1st MXG building, Airmen are able to see the chaplain without driving too far. Whether it’s to talk about the current RISE theme or just for a chat, the door is open.

For more information, call the chapel at 757-764-7847.


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