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Chapel Corps: Caring for Warfighters

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mozer Da Cunha
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing

Chaplains and religious affairs Airmen with the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing provide a welcoming and inviting atmosphere for Airmen. The base chapel, or sanctuary, is not only a place of worship but also a place for Airmen to decompress and find a friendly ear. In a deployed environment, the chapel corps aims to provide spiritual and emotional care for those separated from their families and friends. 

While the work done by the chapel core varies, the Airmen dedicating their heart and soul to the facility also provide an unbiased perspective for all who seek confidential counseling, spiritual and non-spiritual advice, free exercise of religion, regardless of religious affiliation and more...

“As chaplains, we offer rights and rituals for our particular religion endorsers,” said Maj. David McGuire, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing deputy wing chaplain. “Now that’s probably the smallest part of what a chaplain does, the larger portion is what takes place outside the box of the sanctuary. We can talk and assist anyone, even a person that is not a practitioner of any religion. We provide privileged communication, no one else has that level of communication.”

While the Chapel Corps does coordinate religious observances, including planning and securing necessary religious resources. A large amount of time and resources are placed on the unit outreach portion of the mission, a critical part but even more so in the deployed environment.

“Here (in Kuwait) we engage more in an interpersonal level,” said Tech. Sgt. Anthony Villalon, 386th AEW NCO-in-charge of chapel operations. “We get to develop good friendships. Speaking with people we learn to connect more with them and know them on a personal level. Here you have to get to know the person first so we can learn how to best help them in this environment.”

Sometimes unknown to service members is the fact that religious affairs Airmen not only assist the chaplains but they also share the 100% confidentially chaplains provide.

Religious affairs Airmen are trained to provide a variety of services to those in need such as help with religious ceremonies, services as well as helping provide crisis support, suicide intervention, stress management in addition to other counseling services.

“It doesn't matter if you are atheist, agnostic, or what belief system you follow, we are here to help,” said Staff Sgt. Saul Abijah, 386th AEW NCO-in-charge of chapel plans and programs. “Religious affairs Airmen also have confidentiality, so anybody of any faith or any kind of philosophy or background can come and talk to us. We can sit and have a private conversation, we can be just an ear to listen to, and if need be we can get them to a chaplain.”

“Additionally, chapel corps Airmen also provide proactive assistance to problems unique to deployments.”

“Marriage and relationship problems tend to be very present in the deployed environment,” said said Maj. Joseph Kamphuis, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing protestant chaplain. “We are working a lot with those aspects in regards to relationships, we work with people in regards to try and help them maintain those relationships through the separation because the level of stress people are under is higher in the operating environment since people are working longer hours and all that kind of stuff.”

“We try to do what we can to support the Airmen as best we can, listen to them and be present to assist,” he added.

For the chapel corps members serving god and country come side-by-side, while some choose to do it with a rifle, religious affairs Airmen and chaplains serve by caring for those that defend the nation.

“I do what I do to support the warfighter,” said Lt. Col. Cameron Gunnin, 386th AEW wing chaplain. “I know a lot is asked of [our service members] and its an honor and a privilege to be able to be the person that strengthens them to do what they do for the national good.”

“Airmen make sacrifices, everyone in the military does,” Gunnin added. “We serve those who make greater sacrifices, putting themselves in much more of harm's way. For me with my own religious background, I’ve experienced God's love and for me, that calls me to be God's love to others, so this is my way to put that into practice. I aim to help and share God's love with all others, whether they are from my religious background or not.”