Religious affairs airmen in action

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Thomas Karol
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The 86th Airlift Wing Chaplain Office is a team that is here for all. Chaplains themselves are often seen around the base engaging and embedding with teams to assist with the welfare of service members and to gauge the overall morale of units. While they are out in the community, the unsung heroes of their office are working behind the scenes to ensure their mission goes forward unhindered. They are religious affairs Airmen and work to support Airmen and their families.

These Airmen work side-by-side with chaplains in most of the functions they support. From sermons in the chapel to counseling Airmen and their families, religious affairs Airmen are critical to the overall success of the U.S. Air Force’s mission.

“Religious affairs Airmen handle a lot of the administrative work the chaplains office gets,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Devon Grejczyk, 86th AW religious affairs airman. “We handle a lot of the stuff chaplains cannot handle due to them being out with units and other tasks they have. We make sure they stay focused and can keep doing what they do best.”

Chaplains are the face of their organization. Some may think they are what U.S. Air Force Capt. Nathan Smith, 86th AW chaplain, calls “a one man band.” He says this could not be farther from the truth.

“We rely heavily on our religious affairs Airmen for a lot of what we do,” Smith said. “If it was not for them I would not be able to do most of what I do for the community.”

Chaplains are sometimes known for providing privileged counseling, where Airmen, civilians and family members may speak to chaplains with full confidentiality and without fear of reprisal. However, Smith says many do not know religious affairs Airmen can do the same.

“We can perform some of the same tasks that chaplains can,” Grejczyk said. “I see people who are a little afraid to talk to officers, so we can assist people if we are needed. I love to help people and for them to have a safe area to speak freely. We also have an area where you do not have to talk and is just for quiet contemplation.”

Many Airmen and their families belong to faiths and religions from around the globe. By law, the U.S. Military has to accommodate their requests. Grejczyk says the 86th Chaplain Office is more than willing to help.

“We help a lot of Airmen and their families find their preferred religious services,” Grejczyk said. “A lot of people think we just provide for the larger faiths, but we provide all sorts of services ourselves and find places of worship for other forms of faith.”

Chaplains at the 86th AW are typically embedded with units on base. As Smith says, “We keep our fingers on the pulse of the organizations’ morale and welfare.”

“We cannot expect our members to take care of the mission if they are struggling,” Smith said. “We and our religious affairs Airmen try to stay involved and up to date with our assigned units. We want them to know we are here for them and their families.”

Not only does their office provide support to their assigned units, they are heavily involved with the base community by providing activities to bolster the welfare of all members of the Kaiserslautern Military Community.
Grejczyk says he stays involved with his unit by giving them opportunities to get out into the KMC and visit famous local areas such as castles, caves and ruins.

Smith and Grejczyk said the best part of their job is human connection. They love to get out and meet people and make their day better, they explained.

“It is all about the people,” Grejczyk said. “Everything we do is for the people here. Without them, none of the great work the Air Force does would be possible. I know that goes without saying, but it is true. I love what I do because of them and I hope the Airmen and their families here know we are here for them.”