ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam --
In today’s Air Force, resiliency is everything. Here at Andersen AFB, the Contingency Response Group is adopting an idea from Air Force Special Operations Command to better serve their Airmen’s mental, spiritual, and intrinsic needs in a rapidly changing environment.
There are typical difficulties that accompany a life in the military, such as long hours, being separated from loved ones, or seeing things that are difficult to stomach. Because of these difficulties, the Air Force is looking at new ways to combat them and better the lives of its Airmen.
Here at Andersen, changes have already begun in the 36th Contingency Response Group, having embedded Chaplain (Capt.) Jamie Stiffler, 36th Wing Chaplain, has directly embedded with the CRG, whose primary mission is to be ready to deploy or TDY on a moments notice, meaning a large part of the unit is often out the door. Stiffler’s embed is designed to provide more timely spiritual care for Airmen who might other wise be unable to reach out to a chaplain for help.
”The goal with this position is to have rapid deployability with the CRG,” said Stiffler. “There’s an uncertainness with the things that they deal with, and it’s beneficial to have a chaplain who can be deployed with them at a moment’s notice.”
Stiffler is not only working directly with the Airmen from the CRG, he is also training with them.
Recently, he took part in a 3-week training called Dragon Forge, an exercise that focuses on basic field skills a Combat Communication Specialist would need in an austere environment.
It is a similar situation to what is normally seen in Air Force Special Operations Command.
Generally, in AFSOC, chaplains are embedded right into the squadron. However, having a chaplain embed outside of AFSOC is not a typical situation, said Stiffler.
“Usually, if you are looking for a chaplain you have to come to the base chapel,” said Stiffler. “In this case, I can be right there with my guys and help them when they need it.”
As a chaplain embed in the CRG, the duties will be relatively the same as what they are for a chaplain working in the base chapel. Providing counseling and supporting the spiritual resilience of the Airmen is the main goal.
Chaplain Stiffler talked about the ways he can help the Airmen of the CRG, stating, “the best part about being in the embedded role is that I get the opportunity to help the Airmen with their problems while they are still small. So let’s say an Airman comes to me because they’re having an issue with their spouse, but this is an issue that just came up last night and it’s still small. As opposed to having to kind of track down someone to talk with after they’ve had this huge blow-up with their spouse or continued issues. It’s a little discouraging when you want someone to talk to if you have to go completely out of your way to find them. So it’s a lot more proactive to have a chaplain nearby for them. If they’re on a temporary deployment, they may not have a chaplain nearby, which is why this chaplain embed position has come to fruition.
However, a real situation that comes to mind where I feel I helped an Airmen work through their problems was with a CRG troop working on the Typhoon Yutu relief last year. They saw a young girl struggling to find clean drinking water, and the youngster reminded them of their own child. The scene was pretty emotional for them and caused them to miss their family pretty intensely as a result. Because I was on the scene the day after this happened, I was able to share that experience with them and talk them through why is was so important that CRG was there – doing what we were doing to help ease the suffering of the people on Tinian and Saipan.”
Moreover, a huge part of being a chaplain is fostering resiliency within the unit and ensuring the Airmen are ready to tackle not only the Air Force mission, but also their day to day problems in their personal life.
However, Chaplains are not the only people that Airmen can go to when they need help.
Some other base agencies include; Mental Health Clinic, Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Program, Family Advocacy Program, Military Equal Opportunity, First Sergeants, Alcohol & Drug Abuse Prevention & Treatment Program, Inspector General, etc.
For more information about the 36th Wing Chaplains and how they can help, contact the base chapel at 366-6139.