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Reports from the Front: 43rd Airlift Wing chaplain serving a Joint Community

  • Published
  • By Rhonda Griffin
  • 43rd Airlift Wing,Public Affairs
Serving as a wing chaplain is more than just leading a Sunday morning service in the chapel. In fact, the job is full of many responsibilities that assist with the well being of the entire base community.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Kenneth Reyes, or "Chappy," as he is frequently called, serves as the spiritual expert for the 43rd Airlift Wing. He, along with his five chaplains and four chaplain assistants, work with members of Mental Health, the Airman and Family Readiness Center, the Sexual Assault Response coordinator, the Medical Group and other agencies to "create a picture of health and well-being of the wing" for Col. James Johnson, 43rd AW Commander.

The chaplain is responsible for guiding the chapel team with building religious programs, opportunities and counseling for the Pope community, ensuring that the team members are available to all who need them.

"Chaplains can not do their jobs without their assistants," Chaplain Reyes said of his team. "Mine here are second to none. Some people will talk to an assistant before they will the chaplain, and my assistants also do things that allow me to sit down and visit with the base community as well."

Though he tends to be humble when speaking of his many duties, the chaplain is responsible for the entire chapel program on the base, said Chaplain (Capt.) Andrew Schulze. In addition to reporting to Colonel Johnson, Chaplain Reyes also visits with commanders and wing staff agencies on religious matters and confidential counseling, stays in contact with the MAJCOM chaplain and provides monthly feedback on the status of the base to the chief of chaplains at the Pentagon, Chaplain Schulze said.

"He does all of this while also being the individual who makes sure the chapel team is healthy and well - spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally - because if we are hurting in any area, we are not providing the base with the best it deserves," Chaplain Schulze said.

On a recent deployment to Special Operations Command Central, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Chaplain Reyes served as the command chaplain, providing pastoral care for two headquarters. He flew between MacDill AFB and the Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command in Qatar to provide pastoral care to more than 700 command personnel and 7,000 Special Forces personnel in more than 20 countries.

"It was a great opportunity to go back into the trenches," the chaplain said. "I got to do hands-on stuff, letting them know their chaplain is not afraid to work alongside them."
Working in an atmosphere where he was surrounded by all branches of the military, Chaplain Reyes provided pastoral care for all ranks of the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy. Though chaplains are non-combatants, they are still often used to aid in transporting injured people and equipment, along with regular duties of visiting, counseling and providing religious education.

"I was a part of a great team and was surrounded by constant professionalism," he said of the experience. "Those men and women have made a much greater sacrifice than I have ever made."

Though Chaplain Reyes gives much credit to his chapel team, the program would not be able to run smoothly without excellent leadership and direction."Chaplain Reyes is an energetic individual who desires perfection for the Lord," Chaplain Schulze said. "He encourages his team to do their very best and to always be looking for ways to improve.

He has taught us so much to not only be better chaplains and chaplain assistants, but how to be better officers, NCOs and Airmen."

Currently, a major focus of the chapel team is to ensure the community that the upcoming changes from Base Realignment and Closure will not impair the chapel.

"We won't let BRAC define who we are," Chaplain Reyes said. "It will not impact what Pope expects from its chapel team. The Pope chapel is still creating programs and we aren't going anywhere."