I have made it to my deployment location without major incident, though my travel was delayed by one day due to the contractor having some sort of conflict with having an aircraft available for the first leg of our journey. After 22 hours of travel I've arrived. I've been here long enough that my sleep schedule is starting to adjust to local time.
I was deeply touched at a stop in Bangor Maine by the numerous veterans and other people who were there waiting for our plane to say welcome to Maine and to thank us for our service. My stop in Germany was entertaining. We were not there long, and I went up to a small snack bar and ordered Ein Tasse Kaffee (a cup of coffee) only to have the lady tell me "I don't speak German". Arriving in the Middle East during transit I was pleasantly surprised. I had expected a blast of heat as if stepping into an oven, but it was actually quite mild -- an atypical experience I've been told.
Weather at my current location is not bad at all. Hot yes, but dry enough that it doesn't seem that hot. As September passes into fall we can expect it to begin to cool down. The heat has not been a great hindrance though. Staying hydrated has not been too bad as there is bottled water everywhere you turn around.
Today, September 11, I performed my first offical duties as I participated in the Change of Command of our Communication and Civil Engineering Squadrons. Five years to the day after the attack on our nation that began the Global War on terror, its seems fitting that I find myself doing my first official duties in the AOR. (Area of Responsiblity). These are some motivated folks ready, willing, and able to serve their nation in this time of great importance.
I've already began to work closely with my army counterparts here. I've consulted with my army protestant chaplain liason so that we are not duplicating our efforts, but providing the best possible spiritual servies to all our people here. Our chapel team has taken possession of a new chapel facility with a great deal more space which is a fairly hardened facility as compared to the tent we had. We've got a lot of work to do on it yet, but there is a great deal of potential here. As the only Air Force Protestant chaplain here, I find myself responsible for oversight of all the Protestant services in our chapel and there are quite a few. 2 Contemporary, a Gospel service, several Bible studies and I plan to begin a Liturgical Service. On the Army side I was pleased to discover that there is an LCMS chaplain assistant who is planning to go to the seminary. I hope to be able to work with him on some aspects of our ministry here.
So what does a deployed chaplain do? First and foremost arrange for worship services and Bible studies. Then also visitation, counseling, and just about anything to support our folks spiritually and equip them for the missions God has called them to. I'm on duty 24/7 and it is great to have so many opportunties for ministry and service.
What else can I tell you. Our base has some nice ammenities including quite an impressive food court and the dining facility offers a spread that reminds me like a scaled down Golden Corral. There is a small shopping facility and once a month the locals have a bazaar selling their wares. My living quarters are small but private where I share a bath with my fellow Catholic chaplain. The base itself is mostly basic buildings, tents, mods and pods, and a flight line. It's pretty basic, but laid out quiet efficiently. The gym is very well equipped. I'm able to call home to my family twice a week.
And yes for those of you who ask, sometimes things go boom boom. There is a hold in the ground about 30 feet from where I am sitting right now, but that was a rarity. Thanks to the fine efforts of our security folks and others my location is fairly secure. The only boom I've heard/felt was in the city where I am near and not targeted at us. But even if we are targeted, I feel fairly safe due to the many precautions that have been taken to keep us safe.
One last note, I have started to coordinate with my home location at Andrews to feed our major chapel project here: Operation School Supplies. This is where we collect various items which our troops carry out to local peoples to assist their children's education and to demonstrate what Americans value.