By Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards, 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 04, 2019
The 8th Fighter Wing Chapel staff is ready to help Wolf Pack members with their spiritual resiliency. The chaplains provide an array of support including Sunday services and counselling sessions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth article in a series designed to highlight helping agencies and resiliency at Kunsan Air Base.
Most service members know the chapel offers worship services on Sundays and bible studies, while providing a safe place to pray no matter what religion they believe in, but they also offer so much more.
“Resiliency for us, as you speak to the four pillars, falls into the spiritual side,” said Capt. Thomas Simmons, 8th Fighter Wing chaplain. “As chaplains to help Airmen fulfill this pillar, we remind people that the principles, values and beliefs that they have are valid and that they are significant and important in a way that can make their service much more meaningful.”
The chaplain corps can also help individuals seeking counselling services and spiritual guidance, even in religions outside of the chaplain’s own denomination.
“Spiritual resiliency is a personal thing. I can’t tell a person what to believe in, or what’s right or wrong, that’s not why I’m here,” said Simmons. “I’m here, to provide a space for you to believe in, whether it’s a religion or Star Wars, or whatever rocks your boat. I’m here to validate them, and give them the time to pursue in wellness across the board.”
Service members seeking counselling do not need to be the same faith as the chaplain and anything said during the conversation will fall into privileged communication. This means the conversation will remain confidential and cannot be used in a court of law or be shared with mental health, or with the individual’s chain of command.
“Even if someone comes to us and we discover they’ve been having thoughts of suicide, the conversation still falls under confidentiality,” said Maj. Thomas Fussell, 8th FW chaplain. “What we will do, as trained professionals, is try to understand what they are going through and help them come up with a plan for the future. We will also try to work with them to seek additional help from mental health.”
To be able to aid service members in their time of need, each chaplain goes through the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, and many chaplains take additional counselling courses in other areas. This two day course covers a variety topics including identifying a person with suicidal thoughts, understanding the reason of living and dying and conducting follow-up checks.
Members seeking counselling services can speak with a chaplain about a variety of issues including relationship problems or workplace stressors.
“We are primarily trained in listening skills,” said Fussell. “We find that a lot of people just need someone to talk to with the safety of knowing that their information is going to be kept confidential. Once that person talks it out, it seems the tension for that individual is greatly reduced.”
To help individuals and check morale, chaplains will often visit with different units across base. This provides additional time for a service member to seek help.
“I want to remind them, that their spirit is important to the Air Force, and there is someone to help them walk through their life,” said Simmons. “We do our wellness visits, go spend time with the younger Airmen, anything we can do to let them know they are not alone. We want to help them and get them through the tough times.”
The chapel also provides several opportunities for social interaction with its Sunday congregations and weekend dinners.
“There is more to going to church than becoming spiritually fit,” said Fussell. “It helps people who are non-religious to be connected and work on their social pillar. The congregation is a great place for people to intermingle with each other.”
Chaplains are available 24/7 if someone is seeking help. If an individual needs to set up an appointment with a chaplain, call the chapel office at 782-CARE (2273), or for an after-hours emergency call command post and ask for the on-call chaplain. For information about chapel services, please refer to the Wolf Pack Wire.