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Flying chaplain corps takes spirituality to new heights

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Whether it’s leading a religious service or providing counseling to warfighters, religious affairs Airmen here work to ensure service members on the ground and in the sky are spiritually strong.

Chaplain (Maj.) Cody Hollist and Staff Sgt. Daneasha Jenkins, both of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing chapel office, take spiritual support to aircrews, flying with them across region as they complete their missions.

“In order to work with and help the people we’re assigned to, we spend a lot of time flying with them,” said Hollist. “When we’re on sorties with them, our primary purpose is to support the aircrew. Part of that is getting to know them, getting to know what’s going on in their lives, what’s going on back home, and building a relationship to where if they’re struggling with something they can come to us and know that we’re going to help them.”

Being assigned to the operations group at Al Udeid has Hollist and Jenkins supporting missions such as asset and passenger transportation, air drop missions, and even aeromedical evacuation. These diverse operations give the two a chance to support various aircrews and provides a new perspective on how Airmen contribute to the mission.

“During an [aeromedical evacuation flight], we have the mission of getting to know the crew, but also have the opportunity to provide spiritual care for the patients that are being evacuated,” said Hollist. “On those missions, we try to support and talk to the patients and do as much as we can to ease their transition. We kind of have this dual role where were trying to support the crew while at the same time providing support for the patients.”

Jenkins, a chaplain’s assistant, said that even though she flies on sorties to provide a service, she’s also grown as an Airman thanks to the aircrew members she supports.

“It’s really awesome to see all the work that goes into flying a plane,” said Jenkins. “Each person on the plane has a unique and important role to play. Being in there and observing them day-in and day-out is really awesome. We’ve experienced a lot being on these flights, just having a different perspective on how the mission works from their eyes.”

Lt. Col. Richard Pantusa, 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron C-130 pilot, said that having Hollist and Jenkins on flights has had a positive impact.

“Because they have shown that they aren’t afraid of us or what we do, we have a familiarity that opens the door to conversations that otherwise wouldn’t happen,” said Pantusa. “In a real concrete way, their participation in our missions, their approachability, their smiles and jokes give us an easy avenue to encourage each other to take the stresses of deployment to the chaplains.”

Hollist and Jenkins continue to make engagement with aircrews a priority, devoting time to fly with Airmen of the 379th EOG on top of fulfilling their day-to-day obligations.

“The flying aspect is cool because you get to see what they’re doing day-in and day-out,” said Jenkins. “It feels great to be on the flight with the people we’re taking care of. That’s an opportunity I wouldn’t trade for sleep.”

Even though providing spiritual support to aircrews has Hollist and Jenkins pulling additional hours, Hollist said their increased exposure to aircrew members gives greater opportunity for meaningful

“Being able to be connected with them as family I think is one of the greatest evidences of impact,” said Hollist. “When we’re flying with them and we can talk to them about what’s going on in their lives, those are times where we can really convey how much we care about them and their lives and how willing we are to help them out.”