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Chaplain team builds faith with Airmen

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) -- The room buzzed with tension as Airmen stressed to complete all necessary preparations for the Patriot Wyvern scenario. As he entered the room he smiled, putting members of the 349th Aeromedical Staging Squadron at ease.

For Chaplain (Maj.) Matthew Ellis, for the 349th Air Mobility Wing, interacting with military members during exercises helps build relationships and a healthy level of comfort for Airmen.

Ellis and fellow 349th AMW chaplain teams were accompanied by the Air Force Reserve Command chaplain team as they participated in exercise scenarios at Travis Air Force Base Feb. 11, 2017.

One of the difficulties for the Chaplain Corps is having the ability to spend time and build trust with the Airmen, Ellis said.

Fighting against time is the battle for these noncombatants.

Chaplains struggle to balance mission requirements while nurturing positive connections with Airmen, Ellis said.

Exercises such as Patriot Wyvern give chaplains an opportunity to integrate with Airmen.

Ellis worked with the 349th ASTS Airmen during the transportation of communicable disease victims scenario, and later rode in a convoy with the 349th Security Forces Squadron.

“You’ll find that we are very creative on how we visit work centers,” said Chief Master Sgt. Darmel Richardson, the AFRC individual mobilization augmentee chaplain assistant functional manager. “We take advantage of formations where we can expose who we are, so we can develop a rapport with Airmen.”

Engaging with Airmen is pinnacle to the success of the Chaplain Corps operations.

“We have to continually assess the needs of the Airmen and get feedback to modify our mission set to serve their needs,” Richardson said.

Patriot Wyvern allowed Airmen to interact with their chaplain team, and gain shared experiences that acquaint them to this personal resource.

Using occasions like Patriot Wyvern to cultivate familiarity can increase an individual’s opportunity to express concern or discuss private issues with the Chaplain Corps.

“Chaplains and chaplain assistants alike offer complete confidentiality, so counseling can be sought without any formal repercussion,” Richardson said.

Though a resource for all Airmen, the Chaplain Corps’ purpose can be misinterpreted.

There is a myth that chaplains are only for people who are spiritual or religious, and that’s very much not the case, Ellis said.

It is a chaplain’s duty to provide protection for Airmen’s First Amendment rights.

The Chaplain Corps is about allowing individuals to express their own faith, whatever that may be, Richardson said.

Chaplain (Col.) Randy A. Marshall, of the AFRC deputy command, provided mentorship and guidance to his fellow chaplains in addition to engaging with Airmen during his visit.

Chaplains need words of encouragement too, they need to know that they are valued, Marshall said.

“Ministry is people,” Marshall said. “When we forget that, we’ve forgotten our whole mission.”