Military News

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Chapel offers all of 'RUfit?' domains

by Staff Sgt. Zachary Wolf
65th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

4/10/2015 - LAJES FIELD, Azores, Portugal  -- Labored breathing echoes throughout the woods as an Airman takes cover behind a tree while yelling can be heard about the position of friendlies and the enemies. The sun streaks through the trees giving light to the battlefield. One Airman is hit and yells while his teammates flank the opposing team. The first Airman keeps his head down as paintballs whiz by with the objective merely 10 yards away. His task is to get the flag and return to his base with it. He calls for covering fire as he runs up a small tower to grab the flag. He unties it and makes a break for it while calling to his teammates to fire as he dashes towards his base. He makes it back and a whistle is blown ending the game. This was the scene for one of the many games played when the Protestant Men of the Chapel offered a free men's paintball outing in April. With USAFE's continued focus of RUFit?, Airmen may be surprised that the chapel hosted a paintball trip in order to increase physical, social and spiritual resiliency.

"The chapel offers programs that give Airmen the opportunity to socially have fun in a friendly, alcohol-free environment," said Chaplain (Maj.) Kenneth Johnson, 65th Air Base Wing, Wing Chaplain. "We offer game nights, Airmen's lunches and retreats which all fit in the RUFit? model, socially and spiritually. Our men's group recently took over 20 young people on a paintball outing which included lunch, all at no cost to the Airmen. They had clean fun and good fellowship."

Through games, activities and discussions, the chapel is able to reach into the physical and mental domains.

"We support the physical side through retreats and workshops," Johnson said. "The retreats and workshops have a spiritual component, but also often have physical activities and discussions incorporated throughout that will challenge the Airmen in the other domains."

These domains not only benefit the Airmen and their families, but also help chaplains and their staff get their foot in the door and become more approachable.

"We know that we have to meet Airmen where they are and offering the other domains may put them at ease, if the time arises to seek counsel from a chaplain," Johnson said. "It also builds camaraderie, esprit de corps and morale, which all impact the Lajes mission."

The chapel and its programs are often branded with a stigma as only offering the spiritual domain of the RUFit? model. Chaplain Johnson says that it can be a challenge to find creative ways to "de-construct this stigma."

"The fact is, when you look the Chaplain Corp's current strategic priorities from Air Staff, none of them focus on 'chapel base ministry' or spiritual programs," Johnson said. "The strategic priorities have evolved into five areas."

Three primary areas of the five that are focused on here at Lajes are "Warrior care," "Advise leadership" and "Care for the caregivers."

Warrior care is defined as caring for Airmen and their families in operational and training organizations, counseling and support during deployment cycles, and providing religious services and programs as needed.

Advising leadership is a role where the chaplains advise leaders, on all levels, in managing religious affairs within the leader's scope of responsibility. They also give advice on the morale and spiritual welfare of their Airmen and families.

Care for the caregivers is the idea where provision comes in opportunities for self-care and team care for the chapel staff, especially after supporting a traumatic event and reintegration.

The chapel staff has found some innovative ways to offer this resiliency-based program to the Airmen at Lajes.

"We are in a unique position here because we have an authorized industrial kitchen, which opens the door to many activities," Johnson said. "We also can be creative about the activities we provide. We have had retreats on two of the other islands and also have visited the Seven Churches in Turkey."

The chapel continues to look for these innovative ideas and asks for help on what Airmen want to see them offer so they can meet the needs of the Airmen.

"We would like to see future activities designed with the Airmen's input," Johnson said. "On our last trip to San Miguel, many of the Airmen expressed interests in nature walks and hiking as a form of spiritual resiliency. This information is useful in planning for future chapel sponsored activities."

While the chapel offers these programs, chaplains are always there to talk to about anything an Airman may face.

"The chaplains provide privileged communication and is one of the primary ways we provide warrior care and serve our Airmen," Johnson said. "The military member or his or her family member can share privileged communication and it is 100 percent confidential and protected. The member owns the privileged communication and the chaplain cannot share the communication without written consent from the member. I always encourage Airmen to take advantage of the programs the chapel offers, even if he or she does not have a faith background. Most importantly, if by chance there is a life-changing event or you need to speak with someone in confidence, seek your military chaplains, we are here for you."

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