Chaplain candidate: 'I do it for the Airmen'

Chaplain candidate: 'I do it for the Airmen'
Great Article and Great way to become a chaplain. Note that it takes nearly a decade of school for us to cross into the blue, but it's worth it!



Click Here to Read This Article From "First Things"

This is a really good article by one of our Wing Chaplains. Don't know why First Things put an RAF uniform on the story. Enjoy. 


Deployment: Bittersweet

 Deployment is always a bittersweet time for a chaplain. This is what we train to do. This is why we joined the military and it is some of the most wonderful ministry you will ever encounter. But, it comes at a steep price.

We must leave some of the most precious people in our lives in order to take care of other people’s precious ones.

This is obviously emotionally taxing, but it is physically taxing as well. We are called away from our support network, to become someone else’s support network. We leave one climate and enter into another.
In some cases this can be an extreme. For us it was an extreme in climate change. We went from the darkest and coldest winter our home station has seen in the history of weather keeping to one of the hottest places on earth. Fortunately for me, though I left my family behind, my team has gelled into a family that supports, defends and encourages where we have loss.
We spent time away from our families, not only on deployemnt, but also in training. Cold, long days away from home, preparing us for long hot days in a new home for the next six months.
Your supply chain may not always understand your needs. For us, there was no way to explain to our supply chain that we needed cold weather gear prior to leaving for one of the hottest places on earth. We improvised during training and transit by stuffing our rain jackets with fleece undergarments to stave off the cold. Within days, however, we would be stowing our rain jackets and adjusting to a different scenery.
Welcome to one of the harshest and most austere places on the planet. In some ways, it makes you think, “who decided to live here?” Well, we did, so it stands to reason someone else did too. But it’s not all bad. We know how to settle into a place.
It’s not home, but living in a container living unit or CLU (pronounced “clue”) is not a bad way to go. It beats a tent with 40 of your closest friends. In my case I share mine with another officer. There is enough room for two beds and two chairs at a desk. We are missing one chair. I pay $150 a month for 1 mb internet and the air conditioner works pretty well when we remember to change out the dehumidifier.
And, as you would expect in any deployed location, life begins to take on a normal military tone. We are in uniform, we have some paved roads, a state of the art chow hall and a lot of hard sided buildings are starting to crop up. There are a couple stores to shop in and nice recreation areas. But, deployments are never static. Things can change rapidly and they do! Suddenly, you can find yourself in a very different place.
And getting there can be a challenge. Here is a visual of just how challenging that can be logistically.
First of all, let’s look at the size of our area of responsibility.
Does that put some stuff in perspective? And what about traveling some of these distances?

From good roads to good air travel...

To travel modes that I don't use (I've seen to many of them wrecked to ever want in one)

To roads that you pray hold and drivers you pray know how to get out of the mud...

To being escorted through the jungle...

And on "bridges"...

To crossing bodies of water...

It all becomes worth it, when you make a connection. Below is a family stricken by HIV. They are not my mission, but my troops whom I serve, are going out of their way to make life easier on these folks. So I gladly share in my troops' great joy and labor of love as they take a break from other work.

And, along the way, you might just get to see and do some things that you never thought you would.

This is Easter Sunday for my troops. Not a bad backdrop for the Lord's Table. 

Even in the most remote of places, you will find your troops and you will be able to take care of them. And, as you can see in the pictures above and below, you find moments of grace and peace. Once again, it is bittersweet. I'm reminded of home and of my family that I left behind, but I'm so thankful to be able to care for the men and women who defend our freedom.   


SBC chaplains cannot serve ‘God and country’

SBC chaplains cannot serve ‘God and country’

This author, Tom Carpenter, doesn't follow his own advice. He seems tolerant of everyone except the Southern Baptists. And, by his logic, he would have to kick out the Roman Catholics as well, but he doesn't go there. He just paints a straw-man view of the North American Mission Board and posts an angry article that does nothing toward finding a via media in the Chaplaincy.

I would like to apologize to my SBC brethren for this PCUSA Elder's writing. 


Chaplain with PTSD

Click here to read Chaplain with PTSD from Stripes.com

“Eighty percent of what I do is listen,” he said, sitting in his small office, its plywood walls decorated with photos of his grandkids. “That 19-year-old or 20-year-old private doesn’t really understand all this ‘psycho stuff,’ anyway, or even the spiritual importance of talking. What matters is that they’re getting something out that’s bothering them.”

I can't overstate the power of listening. Good view into a chaplain's journey. 


Southern Baptists Limit Chaplains: Prohibits Some Ministry To GLBT

Click Here to read Stars and Stripes.com Article on North American Mission Board's limits on SBC Chaplains

The Southern Baptist's North American Mission Board sets limits on ministry to GLBT service men and women. The statement came as a result of requests from the military and concerns from SBC chaplains, according to Stripes.com

“NAMB-endorsed chaplains will not conduct or attend a wedding ceremony for any same-sex couple, bless such a union or perform counseling in support of such a union, assist or support paid contractors or volunteers leading same-sex relational events, nor offer any kind of relationship training or retreat, on or off of a military installation, that would give the appearance of accepting the homosexual lifestyle or sexual wrongdoing,”

The guidelines also prohibit NAMB-endorsed chaplains from participating in jointly led worship services with a chaplain, contractor or volunteer who “personally practices…or affirms a homosexual lifestyle.”


Chaplain Shares Burden

You may read this article and come away happy that there is a chaplain that can be "real" with his troops. Or, you may read it and feel that he is an "epic fail" due to allowing himself to stoop to worldly behavior. What I would hold up for you, as a future chaplain, is to find your voice. This guy, for good or ill, has found a voice that works for him.



Wow! COT memories. 23 days of turning you into and officer. This is a nice overview and gives some good information for folks wanting to become a chaplain. The days are long, but looking back on it, I'd say it's the most fun I never want to have again:)


Chaplaincy Means Being Away

For the last six months, I've been in Africa. It's been a very rewarding deployment on many levels. But, if your reading this blog to learn more about the chaplaincy, then take a look at the picture to the left. Nothing, and I mean nothing is worth leaving your family for six months, except obedience to Jesus.

I haven't been blogging much. I really miss my family and this picture, drawn by my youngest daughter, gives me pause to figure accounts. What is obedience worth? I love my Lord and I have promised to follow him to the ends of the earth. But, it's not easy. It's not always fun, even when it's fun.

I mean don't get me wrong. This deployment has been incredible. Amazing. God has done powerful things and our mission is beyond belief. We have the best deployed team in the world and the best mission on the planet.

And, I get to experience that apart from my best friend in the world, my wife and my two beautiful and rapidly growing daughters. I've missed half a year. And, others have missed much more and others are never coming home and I get all that. I do. I've carried too many flag covered transfer cases to ever forget.

But, when the medals are pinned on, they will not simply be a reminder of the great men and women I served with. They will be markers on a timeline where I missed life with my dear ones. It is one of the hidden casualties of war. If you are considering the chaplaincy, please pray. Sometimes that's the only way you get through. 


Reverse DADT?




I think this disturbs me more than just about anything, lately. I have come to accept that our society has rapidly changed its opinion on these matters, but there seems to be a strong current that is coming after people of faith for simply having different beliefs than the broad society. One can spew hatred against Christians, but if a Christian simply disagrees she is called a bigot or worse. Now photographers are dragged into court for not doing gay weddings and gay couples are given extra and free leave to travel to states that allow gay marriage. Equal is something people will tolerate. Special rules create an undergrowth of resentment. 


Atheist Chaplaincy could open door to religion


There is a great deal of fear and loathing at the prospect of atheistic chaplains joining the corps. I don't know why this is bothering chaplains and evangelicals (of which I am one) so much. If you can work with a chaplain of a different faith, a faith that you personally believe is not only wrong, but leading people astray, but you can't work with a chaplain who simply appeals to science and philosophy? There is a disconnect for me. I still hold to the idea that the more equality there is for chaplains, the more equality there will be for chaplains. 


Chaplain Who Doesn't Believe in God


His credentials are better than mine academically. He needs a little better understanding of the chaplaincy and its mission because he's talking about being all things to all people, and chaplains don't do that. If this guy becomes an atheistic chaplain, he will need to be a shepherd to atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers and a chaplain to all. He could give specific guidance and lessons to people of his ilk, but he need not give advice on matters of faith, but refer those folks to a theist chaplain. 


Battle Over Atheist Chaplain

Click the link below:

Lawmakers need to understand that keeping atheistic chaplains out of the corps is counter productive to offering freedom of religion to people who believe in God. By denying atheist chaplains entry, we make a red line that other chaplains may be dragged across one day. 


Military Chaplains Cry Wolf

Click Here to read: Military Chaplains Cry Wolf

As a "conservative" military chaplain, I have more in common with this article than many of my fellow "conservative" chaplains. My greatest fear as an Evangelical chaplain is not from the far left, from the Atheists, Agnostics or Freethinkers, it is from my fellow "conservative" chaplains who seem to be quite willing to cut off my nose to spite their own face.

UPDATE 9-18-2013

The author of this article, Tom Carpenter, has published a recent article denouncing the Southern Baptist and Calling for their ouster. While I found some common common ground with Carpenter in the above article, I find his latest article to be filled with hate and unhelpful. His logic is poor and he contradicts his how argument. A link to this horrible example of Christian love is below:


I would like to apologize to my SBC brethren for this PCUSA Elder's writing. 


Chaplain Gets Six Months in Sex Case

Click Here to Read: Army Chaplain Gets Six Months in Sex Case

Don't let one bad apple spoil the bunch. That's the message from the Army Chief of Staff. It is a tragic day when a Chaplain, who is charged with protecting and caring for people, is found guilty of misconduct. I hope and pray that this will continue the message that no one can get away with hurting our folks in the DOD.

Blast From the Past: USAF Chaplain Article From the Late 70s


Interesting Read from 1978 by Ch Branham. In so many ways, things do not change.


Closer to What an Atheist Chaplain Could Look Like

Click here to read: Church Without God

I am always open to talk with those who need a chaplain but feel no need for God. This is one of the better steps I've seen toward what could one day be an organization that sends Atheist Chaplains to the Military.


Solving the Sexual Assault Insurgency

Solving the Sexual Assault Insurgency
A chaplain’s view on counter insurgency and reducing sexual assault in the Department of Defense

I am currently deployed where our primary mission is to promote security and stability by defeating violent extremist organizations and enhancing partner nations’ security and defense capabilities.

As a chaplain, I am one of the many people who support efforts to root out violent extremist insurgents. However, we are actually fighting a different insurgency throughout the DOD. These are not insurgents fueled by religious extremism, or hatred of the West. And, these insurgents do not build roadside bombs. These individuals don the uniform of the United States Military and then launch a widespread and highly effective insurgency of sexual assault from within the ranks.

How pervasive is this insurgency?   According to an NBCNEWS.COM article by Bill Briggs, the Pentagon estimates that last year 13,900 men and 12,100 women on active duty endured sexual assault.  That means 38 men per day and 33 women per day are casualties of one of the most pervasive and successful insurgencies we have ever known.

An insurgency cannot recruit help from a satisfied people and must operate outside the norm of civilized nations. Insurgency and especially extremist insurgents find fertile fields for their cause in extreme poverty and or political oppression and they carry out their violence by dehumanizing the victims.

Sexual assault is a form of violence perpetrated by extremists. These extremists are outside the norm of society and certainly outside of the Air Force Core Values. And, there is a Petri dish in which the vast majority of DOD sexual assaults grow. The extremist insurgents who are responsible for these sexual assaults operate in areas of substance abuse and an institutional tolerance toward the dehumanizing of victims.  As long as we say one thing and do another, this condition will never change.

I deeply believe we are failing in our attempts to quell sexual assault because we have failed to see the perpetrators as insurgents. As a result, we have focused on punishing the offender, caring for the survivor and publically flogging the rest of the Department of Defense. Our efforts must be shifted if we are to be successful.

First, we must see all of us as victims of this violent extremism. When a roadside bomb kills our fellow Airmen at Bagram, we don’t scold the Airmen at Kandahar. We blame the extremists. Why? We are all victims of that horrible act. When extremist shoot at us from a neutral village, we don’t target the villagers. We target the extremists who exploited the innocent. The same should be true of sexual insurgency. When one of our Airmen is a victim of an attack, we are all victims because that assault was made on all of us.

Secondly, we must conduct a two pronged attack. We have to bring those that sexually assault to justice and we must also focus on changing the conditions that allow these monsters to operate. The current counter insurgency doctrine in our Overseas Contingency Operations offers the best framework for battling the insurgency of sexual assault within the DOD.

One of those doctrines comes from David Galula who proposed four "laws" for counterinsurgency:
1. The aim of the war is to gain the support of the population rather than control of territory.
This is going to be paramount in gaining the upper hand on the sexual assault insurgency. We need to redouble efforts on getting “buy in” from the average airmen and not scolding them for the actions of the insurgency. We do this by engaging the culture we have, not by engaging the culture that we want.

2. Most of the population will be neutral in the conflict; support of the masses can be obtained with the help of an active friendly minority.
We need to recognize that most populations are apathetic by nature. In this idea of counter insurgency, we must find and exploit those who are on board with proactively changing the culture. Those individuals will then be able to speak from within the culture and effect change.

3. Support of the population may be lost. The population must be efficiently protected to allow it to cooperate without fear of retribution by the opposite party.
We must maintain an environment where those who stand up to the insurgency feel they will be backed up in every way. We cannot allow an environment where Airmen feel that they will be alone if they stand up for what is right. We can start this by being consistent in our message. One of the first things on the agenda is to review all products sold on DOD facilities to ensure they do not degrade or dehumanize people sexually: namely magazines, movies, video games, and music.

4 .Order enforcement should be done progressively by removing or driving away armed opponents, then gaining support of the population, and eventually strengthening positions by building infrastructure and setting long-term relationships with the population. This must be done area by area, using a pacified territory as a basis of operation to conquer a neighboring area.
This last law is one that is most important for us to learn and use. There is no silver bullet for ending the sexual assault insurgency. This is a long war and a process. We cannot think in terms of institutional changes from the top. We must think in terms of small victories that spread from population to population within the broader culture of the Air Force.

We will need to strike swiftly against the insurgency where ever it is found through the legal system. Once the population sees there is no corner held against the sexual extremists, then we can begin establishing a relationship of trust both in community and infrastructure. Finally, this must be done from a grass roots, Airmen led (local populace) effort.

If we can end the insurgency at one Base using local solutions created by Airmen, perhaps that change will be affective in other bases. If we can change other bases in that region perhaps those ideas and efforts can be effective in the Command. Once something is benchmarked in Command, perhaps those lessons learned can be cross-pollinated to other places in the Military. And, this movement of force can be increased exponentially if we are allowed the latitude to tailor our efforts across the globe toward a “meet in the middle” total force effort.

What won’t work is a mandated, silver bullet, top-down, one size fits all, program that doesn’t take into account the local populace, conditions and limitations. Counter Insurgency does take these things into account and offers not a silver bullet, but a platform through which a multitude of weapons and techniques can be used to great effect.

The Air Force Chief of Staff and CMSgt of the Air Force giving the right message on Sexual Assault



The Art of the Pastoral Visit: Get in, Get down, Get up, and Get out!

Get in, Get down, Get up, and Get out!
The Art of the Pastoral Visit

When I was in CPE, my supervisor gave us a simple formula for visiting someone in a hospital setting. I find that it is a wonderful formula no matter what the setting. Everyone has experienced, unfortunately, the pastor or chaplain who has no situational awareness when it comes to having any kind of “leaving sense.” He or she is usually focused on “self” or is over compensating for his or her own insecurities.

With this simple outline, even the worst offenders of the sensible pastoral visit can avoid being a bane and become a blessing to those in need or those who are at their work station.

For the purpose of this article I will use the industrial setting of the Air Force unit. Let’s suppose we are going to visit the “Load Barn” in the Maintenance Group.

Get in:

Assuming you already have your Line Badge, I drop in at the Senior NCOs office. If the door is open, and the MSgt is not on the phone or talking to someone else, I’ll knock on the door frame.

“MSgt Snuffy, How’s life?”

“Hey Chaplain, what’s going on? Hey there’s not any bomb loading going one today, but I did have a question for you.”

“OK, shoot.”  At this point I may take a relaxed posture or if he is standing, I ask if we can sit.

Get down:

  1. He tells me what’s on his heart
  2. I listen and I mean listen. Shut up and let him talk. If he asks questions, answer them honestly, but lead him toward a place where further discussion can take place either here or at a more appropriate setting.
  3. Because we are in an industrial setting, after listening to his issues and depending on the severity, I suggest the best next step. It could be to pray for him if he is in my covenant community, or to set up an appointment to talk in a more conducive environment. My goal at this point is not to get out. It’s to move toward getting up. I’m not offering solutions or digging deeper. This is like a recon mission. I’m gathering information and allowing him to drive the ministry that he needs.

Get Up:

If you have any discernment at all (for some this will take practice) you will see when the person begins to climb up from their contemplative moment with you. I had an old wing chaplain who said he “waits for the third heavy sigh.” This is when you can move with your body language and words not toward an end to the conversation but toward the continuation, either on your next visit or a planned session.

Get Out:
Once you have found that they have reached an end to their need to share (note this is not a need that you have to make everything better, but that the person has shared what is on their heart), it’s time to get out. Not because you are uncomfortable, but you both need to process what just took place. This is Holy Ground on which you stand and you need not desecrate it with small talk or lingering around. This then, is a good time to continue on with your visitation in the unit or to return to your office to pray as the counseling could have been draining and you need to properly process what just took place.

“MSgt Snuffy, I’ll see you on Wednesday. If it’s alright, I’m going to check on your folks.”

“Sure, Chap, I think they're all back in the support shop doing inventory.”

Air Force Culture AFI 1-1

Finally it's here. Everything you need to know about being an Airman in one handy AFI. The new AFI 1-1 is a one stop shop for most of the AFIs that spell out our culture as an Air Force. There is a specific section on chaplains and on religious freedom that readers of this blog will want to look at.
Interestingly, Michael Weinstein doesn't like the new AFI, but near as I can tell it's not because of what it says, but because he doesn't believe we will enforce it. You can read his comments here: Michael Weinstein

A bit more positive response was fielded from Christian Fighter Pilot on his blog. Read here to see how he breaks down some of the potential issues:

Christian Fighter Pilot

And another view from a blog I found but do not regularly read:


I don't endorse any of the above links, rather, I include them so that you can see what is being said about this AFI.
 I for one am glad that 1-1 is on the street. Since 1990 we have been scrambling from one AFI to the next to define what it means to be an Airmen, culturally.  Now, thanks to 1-1, it's all in one place. Read up and pay attention. Read the AFI below:

AFI 1-1

Finally a word about respect:

I'm glad to see these words in the new AFI as it concerns religion:

"All Airmen are able to choose to practice their particular religion, or subscribe to no religious belief at all."

This is so important! This means that the Air Force believes that secular society is not seen as the standard, but diversity of belief is the standard and you can choose to practice a religion or have no religious beliefs at all. However, one is not greater or more valid than the other. It's not like religion is bad and secular society is good or secular society is bad and religion is good. Both are valid expressions which are equal in dignity because they are espoused by people of equal worth. 

"You should confidently practice your own beliefs while respecting others whose viewpoints differ from your own."

This is awesome! Practice your own beliefs confidently! And, you should do so while respecting others. That means respecting the people with whom you work, play and live. You don't have to agree with or even like their viewpoints, but if you are going to be an Airman, then you need to respect others as it concerns their right to practice or abstain from religion. Don't hate on me because I don't believe in Santa Claus and I won't hate on you because you do. I won't hate on you because you ride a Harley and you won't hate on me because I drive a Honda. It really is that simple. Don't hate on me because I occasionally pray before a change of command and I won't hate on you when you yell IYAAYAS :) 


AF looks to experts for answers in MTI scandal - Air Force News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Air Force Times

They didn't look to all the experts...

"Col. Eric Axelbank said the service is reaching out to psychiatrists, behavioral analysts and researchers to help identify a root cause of the alleged sexual misconduct and to determine whether the problem is a systemic one."

Notice that chaplains were not listed among the experts being consulted at Lackland. Yes, there is a root problem and yes it is systemic. Yes, Chaplains can help these other great professionals deal with it. It goes by many names, but the most commonly excepted, even amongst non-believers, is evil.

AF looks to experts for answers in MTI scandal - Air Force News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Air Force Times


How NOT To Become An Air Force Chaplain

Here is an article by a pastor who struggled with whether to become a chaplain or not. Ultimately, his religious convictions would not allow him to live in the world that other faithful chaplains operate. He decided that he would rather express his brand of Christianity at every time and every place over and against the needs of others and, rather than be humble enough to serve in the difficult environment in which chaplains serve, he left. I am glad that he had the courage to realize that he was not cut out for the difficult and rewarding vocation of being a military chaplain. But, he should stop short of being critical of the rest of us because he obviously hasn't spent time with the many faithful chaplains with whom I serve. Also, I know the chaplains whom he accuses in his article and he for one is mistaken of their intentions and two most who served there during this time, don't even remember him.

Please note, when you read his article you will see that he looks into a chaplaincy career because he couldn't get hired as a civilian pastor. He writes, "Having been unable to find a full-time ministry position in the civilian world (which is very common in the United States due to the unequal ratio of trained ministers to open church positions) I enlisted in the United States Air Force in 2004 with the hope of finishing seminary and then applying for the Air Force’s Chaplaincy Program." You need to know that this is never a reason to come to the military ministry. If you are a Christian, you must come out of desire to serve the LORD and for a love of his people in the military. If you come from another faith group, the latter still applies in my opinion and you must serve your god and faith according to your convictions. For, it takes a brave heart to stand alone, to swallow one's pride and allow God to work, even in our silence. I resent his condemnation of my fellow chaplains, especially those who are Christian, whom he chastises in his article. He knows very little of our heart to care for "ALL" Airmen and be pastor to some. He seemingly has no understanding of how we ensure the 1st Amendment rights of everyone and how we personally attend to the 1st Amendment rights of a few as their pastor. He is perfectly suited to be doing what he is doing, but he is wrong when he levels criticism where he was unwilling to tread as a pastor.

I include a link to his article, not because it has merit, but so that you can see what a total lack of understanding about what we do looks like. How will he reach the people he wants to reach if he is not one of us? How will he touch lives down range? The answer is, he can't. He gave up that opportunity, but we who serve in this difficult ministry, soldier on.  He has given up on those Airmen and seeing them daily in the workplace. He has given up any opportunity to walk where they walk, eat what they eat and be where they are as their chaplain. And, we who choose to serve, we who have taken the challenge to be here (because he is not here), we are sometimes silent, but we serve a God whose Name is famous throughout the earth, and we are the ONLY ones who serve our military men and women as chaplains in harm's way. He does not. Click the link below and see how "not to become an Air Force Chaplain."


FAQ Becoming and Being an Air Force Chaplain

How to become an Air Force Chaplain

I want to thank one of my readers for this excellent list of questions. He has graciously allowed me to pass along our correspondence so you can gain insight as you seek to serve God and Country.

Getting In
·      How competitive is acceptance into the Air Force Chaplain Corps?
·      It is very competitive to get in. We are accepting 25 a year now. That’s down from 31 when I came in. But, don’t let that sway you from applying. We are looking for seasoned pastors and especially pastors who have been a senior or solo pastor of a congregation. We can teach you be chaplain. You need to come to us as a pastor.
·      If you are not accepted, can you re-apply at a later date?
·      Yes, generally you can keep applying and you’ll do that through your endorser.
·      The Air Force requires a letter of recommendation from a supervisor.  How does that work for a senior pastor of a non-denominational church?  Do they want a letter from an elder or deacon board, or can a letter from someone in another church (a prior church, perhaps) substitute for a letter from someone in an applicant’s present church?
·      Generally this will be someone who holds you accountable. Who holds your ordination credentials? Do you answer to some kind of accountability board? Do you have a personnel committee? Think along those lines.
·      How long does it typically take from the beginning of the application process to acceptance?
·      Typically it will be between a year and a year and a half. It will be one year from the time that the Air Force first contacts you before you will enter military service, typically. It’s very important that you begin building your relationship with your endorser right now. For non-denominational folks there are a few options. National Association of Evangelicals is a great one, however, I don't know if they do primary endorsements or just secondary ones of smaller endorsing agencies. Our former Deputy Chief of chaplains is the Ex. Dir.  
·      http://www.nae.net/chaplains
·      How long from acceptance to the beginning of training?
·      Once you are excepted you should have around three to four months before you report. I found out March 31 and reported to Maxwell for COT on May 28. You will report to Ft. Jackson, SC as our school house has moved.
·      When you begin your training, has your family already moved to your new duty station?
·      Typically, your family will not move to the new duty station until you have finished COT. You will be on TDY en route to your new duty station. TDY is a temporary duty. Then you will be given travel days to pick up your family and continue on to your first duty station.
·      How is beginning rank determined?  If all goes according to plan, I will have at least 8 years of experience as a senior pastor by the time I join.  However, 7.5 of those years will be before I earned my M.Div.  What would my likely rank be?
·      You will enter as a 1st Lt (0-2). The AF will only count pastoral experience post M.Div. I had 8 years total but only four post M.Div. and you need seven years post to enter as a Capt. But, this is not bad news. You will make Capt after one year and it’s good to be a Lt while you are learning the ropes.

Life in the Air Force
·      What is the chaplain’s relationship to the Air Force?  Is he assigned to a base, a wing, a squadron?
·      You are assigned to the Chapel and administratively under the Wing Staff Agency. You work directly for the Wing Chaplain and you may have a supervisor (Deputy Wing Chaplain) to whom you report. But, you need to always remember that you are an asset of the wing chaplain and he will assign you to duties as he sees fit. You typically will be given duties in the chapel ministry, in the unit and in military readiness. For example, at my first duty station I was the Operations Group Chaplain (Warrior Care), I was the religious education and contemporary worship chaplain (Chapel Based Ministry), and I was the Government Purchase Card account manager (Military readiness). 
·      How long can a chaplain expect to stay at a particular base?
·      I was at my first duty station for four years. This should be typical as we are trying to save money by not moving people so much. But, over three assignments I will average 3.33 years on station at each because I was selected for a one year school as my second assignment.
·      What determines movement?
·      Needs of the Air Force is number one. Number two would be if you apply for and get a school. Number two would be time on station. Number three could be hardship situations, like you request to move because you need to care for a parent who is terminally ill. This is decided on a case by case basis.
·      Does the chaplain have any say in the matter of where he goes?
·      Some. We fill out a form (it should be done annually to show the developmental team you care about your own career) called an ADP or Airmen Development Plan. On this form you can select 25 bases or places that you would like to be assigned and the order of preference. You also have the opportunity to write a paragraph about how you are doing in the AF and what you would like to do in the future. It’s very important that one is humble and submits to the needs of the AF in this block. This is not a place to brag. It might read something like: “I am so thankful to be serving my God and my Country in the USAF. I am willing to go anywhere the AF needs me and I’m excited about the many opportunities available. When it is appropriate for my rank and experience, I would greatly appreciate an opportunity to serve…”  you get the idea.
·      If he is assigned to a wing or squadron, then does he move with them?  That is, if the wing or squadron is moved to a different base, does the chaplain go as well?  Is this always the case?
·      You will be assigned to a base, but if you are moved you will be move by the Chaplain Corps. I had friends at Cannon and the base changed from a fighter base to a spec ops base. The Chaplain Corps kept everyone there. So one week they were serving as chaplain to a fighter base and not deploying with their assigned unit but as needed by the AF and the next week they found themselves deploying every six months with spec ops troops all over the world. This is an extreme case but give you an idea that we are not tied to movement except as the Chaplain Corps deploys us. 
·      If the wing/squadron goes for a weekend training exercise (or some other type of short-term thing), does the chaplain go?
·      Sometimes. It depends on your wing chaplains plans and if the unit has the money for you to go. This would be a request that the unit commander would make of the wing chaplain and the unit commander would pay for your TDY out of his unit funds. I recently went to Turkey for five days in response to an air craft disaster under this just this kind of request. 
·      Assuming assignment to a wing/squadron, is the chaplain a part of that particular wing/squadron for his whole career?
·      No, you will move around and be in different units and commands. In fact, it’s good to get broad range of experience. For example, my first assignment was a pilot training base as the Ops Group Chaplain (education), my second assignment was CPE (School) at a huge hospital some Med Group (education), my third assignment was to a an overseas fighter base as the Maintenance Group Chaplain (operational world and overseas world). When I was deployed, I was the Mission Support Group Chaplain (support experience). 
·      What might a typical USAF Chaplain career look like?
·      Right now it might look like this for an above average career
·      First assignment 3-4 years (Deploy at least once )
·      Second assignment 3-4 years (Deploy at least once) try to get a school or overseas if you can
·      Third Assignment 2-3 years (Deploy once) try to get over seas
·      Fourth Assignment promotion to major 2-3 years
·      Fifth assignment try to get a school or a staff job
·      Sixth Assignment Wing Chaplain 2-3 years
·      What differentiates Air Force chaplain ministry from the Army and Navy?
·      Army and Navy chaplaincy is much more unit based and less chapel based. The AF has a pretty good balance of each. In the Army and the Navy you typically work for a line officer and in the AF you work for the Wing chaplain. The Army and the Navy you deploy more. Navy Chaplains also serve in the Marines and Coast Guard. In my opinion, the AF chaplaincy is more laid back with less Type A personalities. This is not good or bad, just different. The thing I like about the AF is that I can be as "hoorah" as I want and if I'm not feeling so "hoorah" there are plenty of options to not sleep in the mud.

On-Base Chaplain Ministry
·      Much like civilian ministry, I am sure that there is no real routine in chaplain ministry.  However, might you provide a general description of on-base chaplain ministry?  What does a week as a chaplain look like?

·      Here is a screen shot of next week. It’s pretty typical. I get Mondays off to make up for working on Sunday. This is up to your wing Chaplain. The chaplain assistants all have access to my calendar and can schedule counseling appropriately. And, as you know, stuff happens and you have to adjust fire. So, that is why I have 30 min transitions to allow for ministry that happens in the margins. On-base chapel ministry is a balancing act between unit ministry, parish ministry, counseling, and military readiness. 
·      What are your hours on base?
·      Mostly 0800 to 1600 but that varies depending on leadership and mission. When I was in CPE I got to base at 0600 and left at 1630. I work three evenings a week, hence the late start which also allows for flexibility with PT.
·      Are you typically home in the evenings?
·      Yes, but three nights a week I’m back at chapel activities. This is more by choice and my family is involved in two of those nights. But I’m home more at night as a chaplain than I was as a civilian pastor.
·      What is your role in the base chapel?
·      I currently pastor the Traditional protestant service which runs about 70 people each week. I am the RE (religious education) chaplain so I oversee the volunteers and contractors (paid laypeople) who run AWANA, Tuesday night community, Mothers of preschoolers etc and I am the account approving official for our Government Purchase Card program (govt. credit cards).
·      Are you able to be involved in a local church?  Or, does your responsibility on base prohibit that?
·      Typically Sunday evenings are free and we have gone to churches off base at every duty assignment so far. This can be a good way for you to recharge. 
·      Are chaplains respected by the airmen?
·      You will have a certain amount of respect due to your rank. Other people give special respect to the chaplain. But, overall I see a lack of meaning in people’s lives toward the purpose of the chaplain. I think that’s partly cultural and partly our fault for focusing on the minors (building a bigger RE prgm) and skipping the majors (being present in the daily lives of our airmen where they work). It means we need people like you all the more!
·      What does your interaction with people of other faiths look like?  If a person comes to you for counseling, and he is not a Christian, how do you go about counseling them?
·      You should meet that person where they are. It’s not my job to share my faith with them if that is not what they are looking for. If they need a cold cup of water then I give it to them. If they just want the confidentiality that we offer then I give it to them. I let them drive the ministry that they need. That being said, the Holy Spirit has afforded me the opportunity to lead many more people to Christ in the AF than I did in civilian ministry. It’s a different kind of fishing, one where I rely a lot more on God than I did in the past.
·      Regarding chaplains of other faiths: what does your working relationship look like?  Are there ever any open discussions of differences and similarities between your respective belief systems?
·      All the time. We typically have a great time together. We try to accommodate where we can. Different Protestants cut through the denominational stuff and get down to the brass tacks. I have had great relationships with Roman Catholics. I have had limited interaction with other religions as they are rare. But all have been positive.
·      Have you ever felt restricted in the expression of your faith?  Some have said that they have felt such restriction: how would you answer them?
·      We all feel this. Currently it is more restrictive. But, it’s a balance. I will not be told what to preach in the chapel. Period. However, if I need to say “in your most holy name” in a prayer at a change of command where people of different faiths or no faith may be then so be it. Jesus never prayed in Jesus’ name. We have to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. I really am concerned that my faith in the secular portion of my job is not offensive. I want to be sensitive to those who are different from me. But, in the chapel service, if the cross of Christ offends, don’t come to chapel, because the cross is a stumbling block for some.
·      When someone tells you something in confidence, how far is that confidence expected to go?  That is, if an airman tells you something that could result in harm either to themselves or to others, are you expected to stay silent?
·      We are unique. You can tell no one. That privilege belongs to the person in your office. There is no situation, no matter how awful, that an Air Force chaplain may reveal what has been said in counseling.
·      What is the greatest need of airmen and how do you as a chaplain meet it?
·      They need Jesus. I show them the Agape love of Christ directly when appropriate and indirectly when needed. Your job is to love Airmen where they are and let God be made known through that care and compassion. Sometimes that leads to sharing the Gospel, but more often than not that leads to living the Gospel around them. Just because I know what someone needs, however, doesn't mean that I am the one they need it from. I may simply be one who waters, or tends, or plants or sows. 
·      What are the most important ethical issues facing airmen?
·      The ones I see are whether to completely follow the rules or to keep the peace in their unit. Example, you know that someone was allowed to slide on a non-critical evaluation, but do you elevate the infraction or do you just let it go and not have the heat land on you. The other ethical issue facing Airmen is that many have no foundation for the ethics they might claim. This lack of a religious, theological or philosophical underpinning leads to some squirrelly decision making and usually lands an Airmen in the chaplain's office trying to put their life back together. 
·      What are the two most common reasons people have for visiting the chaplain?
·      Stress: Marriage issues and job related issues
·      What is the most difficult aspect of non-deployment chaplain ministry?
·      Administrative issues or adMINISTRY as some of us call it. Also, it is difficult when we don't have the visibility that our senior leadership does. Decisions get made, but we don't really know why. This makes it difficult to push on when we feel disconnected. But, we trust that they have information that we don't. On the other hand, the fear is that they might be out of touch with the reality on the ground and we are powerless to change any of that. I think this has been the case in every military in history. So, we faithfully serve and respect and trust our leaders.

·      How long is a typical deployment?
·      Six months
·      Where does the Air Force go?  I know that the usual answer is “All over the world,” but where exactly?
·      We used to go to Iraq. We now go to Afghanistan, Kuwait, Saudi, East Africa, Central America, and some undisclosed locations that require varying choices in camouflage.
·      What are your duties during deployment?
·      Pray for the wounded and raise the dead. But, the reality is most AF deployments are very safe. So you will have chapel duties and unit duties, you will work 12 hr days 6 days a week and you will do a lot of stress counseling mainly around broken relationships.
·      How do you cope with the distance from family?
·      Skype helps. Pacing yourself. This is not a sprint! Make regular and scheduled calls home. Stay busy. PT regularly. Prayer is huge.
·      How do your kids deal with it?
·      It’s hard but they are resilient. Help them see how to count down and contact them often. As they get older they take on a sense of mission as well. I had to miss my daughter's birthday on a short TDY and my daughter said, "Daddy, they need you more than I do."
·      How does your spouse deal with it?
·      Going home and spending time with family helps. It’s hard and there’s no way around the feelings. It was hard on my wife, but she had a good battle plan.
·      Are there breaks during deployment?  How long are they?  How frequent?  If there are breaks, are you able to go home during the break?
·      No breaks, unless you are on a 365 day deployment but you would not get one of those. You could, however be tapped with a 365 day hardship tour to Korea or Greenland. In that case you would come home for a two week midtour visit with family. So far, there have been enough volunteers for these missions that I have not had to go. It’s a reality but not one that is too likely.
·      If you are the only chaplain present during deployment, how do you handle ministering to those outside your faith group?  How do you handle facilitating worship services for them?
·      You would find lay leaders, equip them, resource them with what they need and oversee them as far as AFI 52-101 is concerned. You would not be required to help out. You would provide them with opportunity.
·      If you are deployed to a combat zone, how exposed to danger are you?  Are you ever in the line of fire?
·      Rarely should you be exposed to direct fire unless you are at a special ops base and you pretty much have to request that assignment. In hostile countries you are in danger of indirect fire from mortar and rocket attack. This can happen daily. We have lost no AF chaplains during the entire war and only one purple heart (wounded) chaplain. You can and do receive direct fire if you convoy, but policy changes on allowing chaplains to do this monthly.
·      What is the most difficult aspect of deployment?  If you answered “being apart from family,” what is most difficult aside from that?
·      That’s it. Being apart from your family. You can’t be there to fix stuff when it’s broken or when a kid gets a broken arm or when your wife gets the flu. You miss birthdays and Christmas and you never get those months back. Depending on your understanding of marital faithfulness this can be difficult too. Obviously, as Christians we hold ourselves to a high standard. Remaining sexually pure from lust during a deployment is difficult for Christian couples. You and your wife will want to discuss what this means for you. Obviously I’m not talking about an open marriage, but what will temporary celibacy look like for the two of you. What will you covenant to guard your heart and mind from.

Family Life
·      How does your family cope with military life?  Do they like it?
·      My family loves it! We are much happier in the AF than we were in the parish life. It’s easier on my wife in so many ways.
·      How involved are they with the Air Force?
·      Only as involved as they want to be. 
·      How do your children cope with moving?
·      They get excited about it. It’s an adventure to them.

Two final summing up questions:
·      Are you happy as a chaplain?
·      I’m very happy. More importantly, I'm joyful! It has challenges and the AF is not a fun place right now due to budget cuts and personnel cuts. But, it’s a wonderful vocation and I love it.
·      Would you sign up again?
·      I’m in for the long haul. I'd sign up in a heartbeat!
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