Invest in yourself: The desert is a wonderful place for change
By Lt. Col. Doug Slater, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing chaplain
/ Published March 27, 2007
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Part of the wing's mission statement is to make Airmen better while deployed. From my perspective there are two facets to that goal.
First, it implies that leadership will invest on a professional basis in those who serve here away from home. Also, as we each share our home station practices with one another, we can combine them as we complete the mission. But it also implies and requires a certain responsibility of each of us to want to change and become a better Airman... we have to want to take action to change and grow. We have to want to be better Airmen.
The desert is a wonderful place for change and renewing our investment in ourselves. Do you want to be a better Airman? If so, what are you going to do to go home a better Airman? What are your goals? What better time in life than now to incorporate new habits and practices in your life.
Perhaps you decided to get physically fit, shed those extra pounds and firm up those muscles. Perhaps you have your eyes set on getting that mile-marking or weight-setting T-shirt. Maybe you are committed to completing some professional military education, learning a new language, catching up on some reading or taking some college courses to be rewarded one day with a promotion, diploma or just the satisfaction of learning. Possibly you left home with the intention of strengthening your family life and are committed to learning new ways of communication or moving to a new level of intimacy.
These are all great goals, and there are many more each of us have set. While physical and mental growth are both important ways to become a better Airman, let me suggest at least one more area of life to consider as you pursue personal growth and stay balanced in your life.
What is that area that sometimes gets neglected in the busyness of daily life back home? Quite simply, it is our spirituality and the feeding of our souls. Spiritual growth... no surprise a chaplain would emphasize that, right?
But what better place to give special attention to one's spiritual health than in this desert environment? The desert is historically a quiet place without distraction... many religious people of years gone by were either first connected or reconnected to God in a desert area.
I have been here seven months and although the work day is long, after work I have found there are few distractions or commitments like those at home that often would deter me from meeting my objectives of growing physically, mentally and spiritually.
I have spoken with many people over the last seven months who nod their head and say, "Chaplain, I really do need to start attending my faith group services." Many choose to follow through and resume attending worship services and spiritual studies that they may have wandered away from since childhood. They go home with a new perspective on their life and a new appreciation of the value of good spiritual health, the practical and positive impact a "healthy spirit" can have on relationships and daily living and the variety of stresses each of us face.
Since arriving here, I have also met a number of people who wanted for a long time to teach a religious education class but did not have what they felt was the necessary time to prepare and teach back home. Most of those conversations usually start out, "Well, I used to teach all the time years ago, but back home, 'this or that' would always come up instead." But here in the desert they have been able to make a new choice with their time and not only be renewed themselves, but help others to renew and increase their spiritual health in the process.
There is still time. In the words of our Air Force Chief of Chaplains, Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Charles Baldwin, "One day can change a life forever."
Opportunities abound here everyday for each of us to grow and become a better Airman.
Let me encourage you to take advantage of the time you have left here at the wing and go home a changed person physically, mentally and spiritually.