Chapel strategizes lower manning period

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Capt.) Mark R. Juchter
  • Tinker Chapel
Several years ago it was common to have nine chaplains and six chaplain assistants working here at Tinker. In 2008, they were fully manned at five chaplains and three assistants. Today the staff consists of two active duty chaplains and two assistants.

Over the past six months the numbers have dropped due to staff deployments. One chaplain and one assistant departed for deployment in the summer of 2010, the wing chaplain left in early November, and one additional chaplain is leaving for Southwest Asia within the next few weeks. While the staff will gradually increase in the months to come, they will not be at full manning again until the summer of 2011.

"Recent reductions Air Force wide and demand for chaplains and chaplain assistants in deployed locations has resulted in lower manning at state-side chapels across the United States," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Terrinoni, 72nd Air Base Wing chaplain.

The changes began in this past June and, foreseeing further deployments, the staff met in September to plan for the reduced manning. Realizing that they couldn't continue as they have done before, they examined our processes, common tasks, and set priorities. The end result was a game plan for achieving their core mission while taking care of their own staff.

For example, over the coming months, chaplains will be primarily accepting invocation requests at the group level and higher. To assist in providing prayers at the events the staff cannot cover, they are asking for volunteers from units across the installation. These individuals will receive formal training and resources, and will be available for invocations at events within their units when a chaplain cannot be present.

"The chapel will train the prayer pool on the do's and don'ts of religious accommodation and prayer in organizational gatherings," Col. Bob LaBrutta, 72nd ABW commander, wrote in a recent e-mail. "They will also document the training. In this way, a squadron/individual can, as they wish, incorporate inclusive prayers into events and assemblies."

Other noticeable changes include the scheduling of most non-emergency counseling sessions. Previously chaplains were able to see most walk-ins immediately, but with two on staff they will need to make appointments for those who do not have an urgent need. First Sergeants and others referring Airmen to the chapel are asked to call ahead whenever possible.

Additionally the chaplains will no longer have specific assignments to units. Rather the two remaining chaplains are "installation chaplains."

However, thanks to our dedicated chapel community, volunteers, contractors like Charles Anderson, director of the Airman's Ministry Center, and their Navy counterparts, the chapel is able to continue offering a full schedule of worship services and keep the doors to the Latté Lounge open.

"As we live into this period of lower manning we ask for your patience. One of our top priorities for this time is the self-care and resiliency of our own staff," said Chap. (Maj.) Patrick Wedeking, acting wing chaplain. "Please understand that with two chaplains and two assistants, we cannot be everywhere at once."

For more information on the changes or to volunteer to join the "pool of prayers," please contact the chapel at 734-2111 (DSN 884-2111) or 72 ABW/HC Workflow via e-mail.