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Chapel team fights for resiliency, morale

Stained glass adorns the window of the Southside Chapel on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, April 19, 2018. The 86th Airlift Wing Chaplain Corps aims to meet the spiritual needs of Airmen and their families in the Kaiserslautern Military Community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Magbanua)

Stained glass adorns the window of the Southside Chapel on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, April 19, 2018. The 86th Airlift Wing Chaplain Corps aims to meet the spiritual needs of Airmen and their families in the Kaiserslautern Military Community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Magbanua)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- When people think of military chaplains, they think of the commissioned officers who handle the military’s religious services. While that’s true, religious affairs are not a chaplain’s sole mission.

Apart from meeting the religious needs of the community, Air Force chaplains also provide private counseling services, sponsor resiliency events for Airmen and their families, and conduct unit visitations.

These ministries play an essential and crucial role in Airmen’s morale and readiness, said Capt. Ioan Dumitrascu, 86th Airlift Wing chaplain.

“My favorite part about being a chaplain is being able to serve others,”
he said. “Part of our mission is to connect with people at the human level; to help them with their struggles, to propel them over life obstacles and to journey alongside Airmen when adversity strikes.

Dumitrascu, who is an Orthodox Christian priest, added that chaplains help service members of all faiths—or no faith at all. The chapel’s services are available to everyone, he said.

“We’re here for them,” Dumitrascu said. “We can connect with them on a personal level and use universal valid principles to help them. I’m a priest for my community, but a chaplain to all.”

The 86th AW Chapel offers a variety of religious services for Airmen and their families. These include but are not limited to Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, and Islamic.

Dumitrascu warned against stifling one’s issues, using various analogies to describe the impact of people letting their problems accumulate or going unsolved.

“Imagine a balloon that is overinflated,” he said. “Similarly, if we become overstretched by our burdens, what will happen to us? We will break. People who neglect to get help in time expose themselves to this risk. Both work and family life are affected.”

Chaplains do not work alone in their mission to help to fight for resiliency and morale. They have enlisted partners, called religious affairs specialists, who help them with their tasks. Together, the two are called Religious Support Teams.

“We help the chaplains out with their programs, whether it’s marriage retreats, religious services, or bulletins,” said Staff Sgt. Jacob Johnson, 86th AW religious affairs specialist. “Not only do we make sure the events go smoothly, but we also engage with Airmen at those events.”

Johnson said religious affairs specialists can serve as a bridge between their fellow enlisted Airmen and the chaplains, and also provide crisis intervention counseling as well.

Both chaplains and religious affairs specialists are bound by 100 percent confidentiality, meaning they are prohibited from sharing what their clients discuss with them.

Johnson described this policy of confidentiality as an advantage, which benefits the individual seeking help.

“If you came with an issue on your plate or needed to talk to somebody, I’m able to give you that 100 percent privileged communication,” he said. “It’s not going anywhere, and I’m not telling anybody. I love helping people. When someone comes in with an issue and they leave feeling refreshed and able to return to their work or family, I like being able to do that for people.”

Johnson added that while the chapel consists of a diverse workforce of people coming from a variety of beliefs, everyone works together to accomplish the same mission of supporting the needs of the community.

“I love the fact that we are able to work with a team of people that are so diverse,” he said. “Everyone is so kind and honest. Everyone here is working toward the same goal: to help Airmen.”

To speak with the 86th AW Chapel please call DSN 314-480-6148, or COMM 06371 47 6148.