Hello friends of ALC. I cannot believe how quickly time has gone by since saying goodbye three short weeks ago. For the last three weeks, my days have consisted primarily of PT (physical training), Chaplain duties (both planned and unplanned), and administrative duties related to being a reservist (annual online training, physical check-ups, etc.).
As shared prior to my leaving, during my time in Japan I’ve been assigned to the 353’rd Special Operations Wing (SOW) out of Kadena AB. My supervisor Chaplain Jensen fills what the chaplain corps calls a “true north” slot, meaning Chaplain Jensen is an embedded chaplain who works with one enlisted religious support airman to offer spiritual care to the entirety of the SOW. In the 353rd SOW are 1200 airmen (a term that encompasses all genders) that operate the only Air Force Special Operations unit in the Pacific. As said in their mission statement, “The 353rd SOW plans and executes general war and contingency operations using advanced aircraft, tactics, and techniques to infiltrate, exfiltrate, resupply, and support special operations forces.” Units, Chaplain Jensen oversees, that make up the SOW include 1st Special Operations Squadron, 21st Special Operations Squadron, 320th Special Tactics Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron, and 753rd Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
Something interesting about working in the Special Operations realm of the military is the availability of resources. Naturally, the SOW falls under Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) which then falls under the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM). What all these special acronyms mean is that the SOW is one of the most funded and supported wings within the Pacific. A tenant of SOCOM is Preservation of the Force and Family (POTFF) whose mission is to optimize and sustain Special Operations Forces (SOF) mission readiness, longevity, and performance through integrated and holistic human performance programs. What makes up a typical PTOFF team is a mix of active-duty and civilian doctors, licensed clinical social workers, military and life counselors, physical therapists, strength and conditioning coaches, mental health techs, psychologists, psychiatrists, and chaplains.
This is where the chaplain and my time in the SOW come in. As part of POTFF, the chaplain’s main priority is fostering spiritual practices, and character ethics, helping airmen articulate values and beliefs, and assisting with meaning and purpose. What this has meant is countless hours counseling both airmen and their spouses, engaging airmen in their units by walking around and listening to “highs and lows,” fostering opportunities to offer advice and wisdom to commanders, and hosting resiliency retreats and training. Though I look forward to returning to Boulder in just a short week, between now and then, I will be attending an SOW first Saturday event (a food tour in Naha, Okinawa), two chapel services, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) training, visiting our hospital to provide spiritual care to doctors and nurses with the 18th Med Group, hosting a date night for SOW high-risk couples, and leading resiliency training for spouses and children of the 353rd Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (just to name a few highlights).
I can’t wait for the opportunity to share more about the ministry opportunities I’ve had once I get back! You all have remained in my prayers. I look forward to rejoining you soon.