TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) --
Living in tents, beaten down by the sun, working long hours and on top of all that, imagine being separated from family. Sometimes that’s the reality for Airmen on deployment.
It isn’t all that bad, as long as the chaplains are around.
Capt. Brent Little, 366th Fighter Wing chaplain and religious affairs Airman, Tech. Sgt. Anthony Bean, participated in exercise Agile Flag 21-1,Oct. 21-29, at Tyndall Air Force Base, where their role is very similar to what it would be deployed.
“We offer spiritual care to whoever wants it,” Little said. “We know it’s hot out here and everyone’s working hard, so we want to fill any need we can.”
Agile Flag 21-1, the first exercise of its kind, is an experimental exercise that tests a new lead wing command design for deployed environments. Naturally, this comes with stress and frustration. The chaplaincy aims to combat that by strengthening Airmen’s minds, bodies and souls while in that environment.
“We got a snack shack, a massage chair, counseling area and coffee,” Little said.
They are also using this opportunity to try new ways of taking care of Airmen. The most notable is implementation of virtual reality as a resiliency tool for Airmen.
“In VR, Airmen can meditate, go fishing, fly through space, enjoy walking in nature or (have) hundreds of other engaging experiences,” Bean said. “Solo VR experiences build resiliency and provide an intuitive platform for engagement and interaction which is critical to overcoming what our wing chaplain, Lt. Col. Joshua Payne, affectionately calls ‘the tyranny of distance.’”
The chapel purchased 30 VR sets to follow Airmen on deployments in a hope to bring some semblance of home.
“We had an Airman on deployment who was a father,” Bean said. “He was having a tough time because the timing of the deployment made him miss his annual fishing trip with his son. He put on the VR set to do some virtual fishing. A few moments later he began to tear up … the fishing hole looked exactly like the one he goes to with his son. He said that gave him the drive to keep going so he can make it home to his son.”
The thoughtful and caring work of the 366th FW chaplaincy continually brings genuine connection, smiles and resiliency to the mission, mostly in part because of the personal character of Little and Bean.
“I’m called to be a helper,” Little said. “I try to do that by walking with people through this journey of life. Whether it’s high or low, we are fellow Airmen. (Tech.) Sgt. Bean and I try to have that mentality as we walk with people.”