Incirlik Chapel connects “People to God, friends to friends”

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alex Martinez
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
After a mortar round shot over the perimeter wall and struck close to their facility, the people inside began to panic. To some, this is the closest they had come to death. Luckily for them, a chaplain was amongst them. Immediately, his work began, calming everyone down, praying and listening to people's concerns. After hours of sheltering in place, they were released, and like a breath of fresh air, they were spiritually fit, focused and able to fight on.

This is the power of chaplains and chapel services.

"After the attack, it was a time of real soul searching for the people and me," said Chaplain (Maj.) Mark Crumpton, the 39th Air Base Wing chaplain, as he described an outstanding event in his career. "Many of those people weren't even religious, but it doesn't matter when you need comforting."

Chaplain Crumpton is right.

Whether one believes in God or not, it doesn't matter to the base chapel. Chapel services don't only include religious counseling. All the services they provide, arguably the most important in the military, can help people on many levels.

"A big misconception is all we do is preach on Sunday," Chaplain Crumpton said. "We are here to help people of all religious beliefs. We also help people who aren't religious at all. Our lane is the spiritual lane, but we have become a clearing house for various issues. Regardless of what the issue is or the faith background of an individual, we're here to listen."

Chaplain Crumpton said no matter where he is, he has an open invitation to anyone who wants to talk.

"A chaplain's favorite phrase to hear is, 'Hey Chaplain, do you have a minute?'," Chaplain Crumpton said. "It's rare to be in a group of people and not get pulled aside to talk. If they ask, we will listen."

Chaplain Crumpton said a main task of chaplains is connecting people to God, and friends to friends. They can do this through a variety of worship services and observances, providing pastoral care and advising leadership on an array of issues. All of this couldn't be accomplished without the help of chapel assistants and other chapel staff members.

"The chapel staff is critical." Chaplain Crumpton said. "Without their support, we wouldn't be able to do the things we do within our ministry."

Tech. Sgt. Dustin Stull, a 39th ABW chaplain assistant, said over the years, chaplain assistants have received the label of only being chaplain body guards.

"The label of us being body guards just isn't true," Sergeant Stull said. "Yes we're the ones with weapons when we're deployed, and we would use them if we had to, but that's only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what we do."

Chaplain assistants are essentially the "eyes and ears" of chaplains on deployments, visitations and other events. They're not able to officially counsel people, but they can help people find the resources to solve a problem to include seeking counseling from a chaplain.

Both chaplains and chaplain assistants have the ability to honor full confidentiality of a counselee.

"I think [confidentiality] is the most critical component of our job," Chaplain Crumpton said. "It's an important tool that the chapel brings to the fight."

While fully engaged where ever they are in the world, a chaplain and their assistants are most critical in deployed locations. When deployed, they can offer needed mental and spiritual care to warfighters.

"I think the thing that really strengthens the Air Force is our diversity and willingness to accept others regardless of their beliefs," Sergeant Stull said.

Whether deployed or at their home base, their mission statement remains the same: "Glorifying God, serving Airmen and pursuing excellence," because that's what they do on a daily basis. No matter religious beliefs, it is their job, and passion, to help ensure spiritual readiness and that the military members' constitutional rights to freedom of religion is upheld.