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A Chapel Team’s Warrior Ethos

  • Published
  • By Col. Mike Fellona
  • 385th Air Expeditionary Group

To some, an Air Force chaplain is a smiling face, a warm cup of coffee, or caretakers of a venue where one can relax. To others they are a shoulder to cry on, someone to help relieve them of burdens, teachers, and spiritual directors or examples as they search for their own spiritual meaning.

Whatever meaning a chaplain represents, some religious affairs members at Al Udeid Airbase, Qatar, embodied the true calling of what chaplaincy looks like over the past six months.

The 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Chapel has played a key role in some of the most challenging times within the wing’s recent history. From the U.S. combat forces withdrawal from Afghanistan, the non-combatant evacuation (NEO) of American and Afghan citizens, to supporting the completion of the combat mission in Iraq, the chapel team has been in the front lines providing service members, civilians, and refugees the proper resources needed for their spiritual, mental, social, and physical needs.

During this time, U.S. Air Force Capt. John Reutemann III, chaplain, and Tech. Sgt. Andrew Winter, religious affairs non-commissioned officer, both assigned to the 379th AEW Chapel, focused their support on members of the 385th Air Expeditionary Group, 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, and 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron.

Their faithful service and dedication to the men and women of these organizations was instrumental to the group and squadron’s organizational success.

According to Lt. Col. Patrick “Howdy” McLaughlin, 816th EAS commander, “of all the incredible support his team received from the installation during the NEO, the chapel team was by far the most important aspect to helping keep the people in his unit going and execute the mission.

“They were always there, every hour of the day, meeting our crewmembers where they were and helping them process what they were a part of,” McLaughlin added.

The Air Forces Comprehensive Airmen Fitness tells Airmen to maintain their emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual strength to accomplish whatever mission is at hand. When not assisting the aircrew and maintainers, Reutemann and Winter could be found with Afghan evacuees helping meet their spiritual and emotional needs.

“The chaplain team brought CAF to the battlefield, and their true warrior ethos allowed our teams and aircrew to continue the mission,” said Col. Mike Fellona, 385th AEG commander. “Without their extraordinary efforts, we would not have been as successful.”

Throughout history, chaplains have always played a critical role for Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines giving them peace of mind and support through hard times.