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Leap of faith: Chaplains help Airmen flex spiritual muscles
Chaplain (Capt.) Thomas Fussell, 354th Fighter Wing protestant chaplain, visits with members of the 354th Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment shop, March 6, 2014 Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Of the many services the chaplains offer to enhance spiritual fitness, one of them is getting out into the units and getting to know the Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)
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Leap of faith: Chaplains help Airmen flex spiritual muscles

Posted 3/13/2014   Updated 3/13/2014 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/13/2014 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- As one of the four pillars of resiliency, spiritual fitness can play an important role in the overall well-being of an Airman. For this reason, the chaplains of the 354th Fighter Wing provide many services to ensure every Iceman has the opportunity to speak to them.

Some Airmen work jobs that might make it harder to leave their shop due to a high operations tempo and don't always have the opportunity to see a chaplain. So the chaplains come to them.

"Spiritual fitness seeks to answer important questions in life, the big questions like 'What's my purpose, what do I believe,'" said Chaplain (Capt.) Thomas Fussell, 354th Fighter Wing protestant chaplain. "Questions like those operate our daily lives and our beliefs; those beliefs in our heart of hearts will come out in our behaviors naturally."

Aside from the many activities chaplains are part of, such as Airmen dinners, resiliency briefings and church services, they have set up alternate duty locations throughout the installation, to support those who might not be able to reach a chaplain by normal means.

"It's been a trend in the past handful of years in the Air Force to get us closer to being in the units," said Fussell. "We find that when we are out in the units, we can be more proactive in helping to solve internal issues that tend to pop up in personal lives."

Alternate duty locations are currently in the 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron, 354th Maintenance Squadron, and the 354th Security Forces Squadron. Chaplains also pull one swing-shift a week for Airmen who work late nights or weekends.

"It's nice that the chaplains do this because some people might have things that they might not be comfortable to come and talk about to their coworkers," said Senior Airman Andrew Luna, 354th MXS aerospace ground equipment journeyman. "I think the chaplains having an alternate office within our squadron and knowing who we are is a really great aspect of their service to us."

With the only counseling service on base that provides a 100 percent confidentiality disclosure, when the chaplains say you can tell them anything, they mean it.

"Our purpose is to give people options when they feel they've been backed into a corner," said Fussell. "I am not going to go their commander, their first sergeant, their mother or anybody about what they just said. If I did, I would lose my cross and be no good to the Air Force."

As for those who choose no religious denomination, it shouldn't deter them from visiting with a chaplain.

"In fact, most people I talk to are not religious," said Fussell. "If they choose to believe something else then I'm okay with that, I will still talk to anyone."

The chaplains encourage Airmen to seek assistance before things get out of hand and to possibly prevent things from getting any worse.

"Life happens and all that stuff tends to sit on us and we have to get it out somehow," said Fussell. "When we get the concerns and cares off of us, then we can be more focused, we can be more efficient and effective at what we do."

Airmen should keep spiritual fitness in mind with their daily lifestyle and exercise the different opportunities available to them.

"I believe I have the best job in the Air Force," Fussell concluded. "It's fun to get out from behind the desk and be around people that are focused on a mission that makes a difference and it's fun to make a difference in people's lives and help people when they get in a bind."

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