Chaplains: Then, now and into the future

Since the humble beginnings of our armed forces, there have been many changes. One of the few consistencies has been the Chaplain Corps.

The Chaplain Corps dates back to July 29, 1775, when the Continental Congress authorized one chaplain for each regiment of the Continental Army. Since the War for Independence, chaplains have served in every American war.

The Air Force Chaplain Corps provides spiritual care and the opportunity for Airmen, their families, and other authorized personnel to use their constitutional right to the free exercise of religion, according to Ch. (Lt. Col.) Dwight Magnus, 507th Air Refueling Wing Chaplain.

“Our duties are primarily focused on spiritual and moral issues, but in recent years, matters such as suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress and family separation have really changed how we do business,” said Magnus. “We are proud to work with our psychological health adviser, Jacqueline Falkner, to address these issues.”

Although military chaplains have been around for more than 240 years, the religious landscape is ever-evolving and so is the way chaplains connect with Airmen.

“There are growing numbers of non-believers and believers of other faiths,” said Magnus. “We are available for all Reservists regardless of their spiritual beliefs. The important thing is to take care of our Citizen Airmen and civilians.”

The chapel staff sends Religious Support Teams out to the Airmen. In 2015, the teams personally reached out to 10,323 unit personnel during 390 hours of unit engagement.

“Chaplains help keep the team guided,” said Lt. Col. William Young, 72nd Aerial Port Squadron commander. “They are always ready to lend a hand.”

Comprehensive Airman Fitness has four pillars: physical, social, mental and spiritual. According to Magnus, chaplains strive to help Citizen Airmen maintain spiritual readiness while they balance military careers with families and civilian jobs.

“It’s an honor to be there for them in their time of need, and it’s great to talk about their personal joys and professional achievements in life,” said Magnus.

507th Air Refueling Wing Commander, Col. Doug Gullion, said he appreciates the chapel staff’s innovative ideas on how to accomplish their unique mission.

“Because of this out-of-the box thinking, the 507th ARW Chapel Office received Air Force Reserve Command’s Chaplain Ministry of Presence Award for 2015,” said Gullion. “We are proud to have a Chapel Office that sets the standard in our command.”

Magnus has a team of two additional chaplains, Ch. (Capt.) John Weston and Ch. (Capt.) Keith Rogers, and three chaplain assistants, Tech. Sgt. Michelle Tharpe, Tech. Sgt. Patrick Garrison and Staff Sgt. Christine Tottress.

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