What Do Chaplains Do Anyway? Part 2

Chaplains Counsel People

Chaplains take care of people so they can take care of business. Often times that happens by listening and providing counsel to people. I cannot talk about any specific cases, as the Air Force grants total confidentiality to the person who counsels with a chaplain. You might say they own the entire conversation and it is theirs to do with as they will.

Counseling can take place in a variety of settings. Sometimes people walk into the chapel. Some make an appointment to come by the office. Sometimes conversations strike up in a work center, on a aircraft in flight, on a stretcher in the hospital and so forth. Conversations leading to counseling can take place just about anywhere. I've counseled people in my office, on the flight deck of a C-17, in the payload bay of a C-130, in the middle of a line to get food, and in jail.

Chaplains are about maintaining a "ministry of presence" in the Air Force. That means being out there with the troops. That means that where the troops are -- the chaplains are. I myself haven't been to the desert -- yet...but I will be.

Contact can occur in a variety of ways. Sometimes people will call up the chapel and just want to speak to who is available. Some call and make an appointment with who is available, some with the chaplain they know. Some are referred by unit commanders or brought by people who care. Others come on their own. And often conversations flow because a chaplain just stopped by to say hello.

And what can come up? I've had to comfort a soldier coming home from Iraq to visit his folks with the news that his father would likely pass that evening. I've prayed and listened to many of our wounded. I've talked to people wrestling with marriage and family issues. I've talked to people thinking about killing themselves. I've escorted a young man to the emergency room who thought he was being attacked by demons. I've encouraged young people to set and work for goals, to get an education, to strive for excellence and so forth. I've visited with people getting ready to go into harms way for extended periods of time away from their families and then talked with their families while they loved ones were away. And while I pray I never have the opportunity, our chaplains stand ready to comfort should any of our comrads in arms pay the ultimate price for the maintaining of our liberties.

Chaplains are there for the troops -- to listen, to counsel, to support and comfort. Where they are, we are.