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A Day in the Life of a … base chaplain

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mindy Bloem
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Editor's note: "A Day in the Life of..." is part of a 10-week series which focuses on some of Pope's various career fields and offers a first-hand perspective to the readers. 

Most of my experience with the military has stemmed from what I have learned since enlisting in the Air Force in the summer of 2006. So when an idea to spend a day with Airmen in other career fields presented itself, I gladly volunteered for the job in hopes of adding to my ever-expanding military insight. 

Since my faith is the most important thing in my life, my first "new" career-field choice was not a difficult one. I wanted to shadow those I consider to be not only government agents but God's agents -- the base chaplains. 

When I pulled up to chapel to begin my brief induction into their world, I felt slightly nervous. It was not like I had never been inside the chapel before. I mean I've been there many times for church, memorials, Bible studies, etc. However, this time I entered with what felt slightly akin to first-day-of-school jitters. I decided to suck it up and go inside where I was first greeted by Master Sgt. Angel Bedford who kindly introduced me to the rest of the chapel's small, intimate staff. 

After the introductions, I spent the first hour or so following around Chaplain (Capt.) Andrew Schulze, who patiently explained to me some of the inner workings of the chapel. I enjoyed his down to earth, easy manner, and felt that if I ever needed to talk to a spiritual leader; I would definitely feel comfortable talking to him. As we talked about his life and ministry, it became clear to me that Chaplain Schulze was a man who loved his work. 

I was next invited to attend a funds briefing with two chaplain candidates, 2nd Lt. Leon Buchanan and 2nd Lt. Brian Huffling. I was glad I got the chance to sit in with these new candidates for what better way to get inundated with chapel life then to shadow two people who were being saturated in that world themselves? They both listened intently as the funds technician explained to them the painstaking procedures chaplains must go through regarding the chapel funds. She said the number one thing that gets chaplains into trouble is mismanaged funds. When she made this statement, I thought about the verse that reads, "For the love of money is the root of all evil." Man's supreme love of money has been getting people into trouble since the dawn of time and it would seem nowadays is no different. I realized how important it was for chaplains to be accountable for the parishioner's tithes and offerings. After all, parishioners give their hard earned money to go towards the Lord's work, and it is important for those who handle that money to exercise the utmost integrity. 

After the briefing, I was invited to go with Chaplain (1st Lt.) Nicholas Lopresto and the two chaplain candidates on visits to the 43rd Security Forces Squadron members. Although the chaplains serve the base, they are also designated to specific squadrons in order to give the individual attention to the various members of Pope. We went to the Manchester and Reilly gates for the visits to talk with those conducting gate duty. I learned the chaplains often visit the gates more than once in a day. 

It was refreshing to witness our chaplains in action as the three of them divided up in order to give more personal time to the individuals working the gate. They went to the Manchester gate first and then to the Reilly gate. I watched each of them give personal time and attention to these hard-working individuals. When driving over there with them, Chaplain Lopresto said sometimes these visits become prime opportunities for counseling sessions because individuals will often feel more comfortable opening up during an impromptu visit versus actually scheduling a sit-down appointment. 

During lunch, we all sat around the conference room table while the Olympic Games played in the background. It was nice to see how close-knit they all seemed together. You could tell they really cared about each other by the way they joked and laughed together. 

After lunch, I went with Chaplain candidates Buchanan and Huffling to the 43rd SFS building to pray with them before their shift. After prayer, Chaplain candidates Buchanan and Huffling each rode along with a member of security forces. I rode along with Chaplain candidate Huffling who used this opportunity to ask a lot of questions in order to gauge the spiritual climate of the squadron. I noticed that he was genuinely interested in the lives of those in the squadron and the driver seemed to respond to this interest with openness. 

When I got back to the chapel, I went inside to talk to Chaplain (Maj.) Kenneth Reyes for the last 45 minutes. Chaplain Reyes has a fatherly way about him and I found myself easily opening up to him for spiritual insight. He gave me some biblical advice and even answered some of my theology questions. I left his office feeling spiritually uplifted and refreshed. 

As I left the chapel that day, I felt I truly had gained a better understanding of these ambassadors of God. Each of them plays an intricate role in the Total Force concept of body, mind and spirit. I feel so grateful to be part of a country that realizes the importance of its Airmen's spiritual welfare as well as their mental and physical welfare. It is such a relief to know that I have access to these spiritual leaders who truly do care about the spiritual condition of our Airmen.