NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --
From the COVID-19 pandemic to protests spanning across the nation, the year 2020 has been a whirlwind. This can be a stressful time for anyone, and this added stress brings about questions and concerns of “developing resilient Airmen.”
Resilience is a term used frequently by the military but it’s often misconstrued and misunderstood.
Depending on the individual, resilience will look different and represent various amounts of meeting one’s mental, physical, social, and spiritual needs.
Spanning back to 1775, the Chaplain Corps has been there to help build military members’ spiritual health and esprit de corps. Chaplains now continue this legacy by looking after the Airmen of their respective squadrons.
“Our job is Airmen,” said Capt. Robert Nelson, 99th Air Base Wing chaplain. “We’re here for you and whatever you need. There’s four pillars of wellbeing. Spiritual health is a big part of that and that’s our field as chaplains. It’s definitely a pleasure to have the opportunity to help people. I get to share my faith with people but that isn’t my only role because spiritual resilience isn’t just about religion.”
Chaplains provide Airmen with an important tool when it comes to talking out their problems.
“The biggest thing that chaplains can offer is absolute confidentiality,” said Nelson. “No matter what happens, they know they can talk to me and it stays between us. That puts their minds at ease and I’m often the first one that gets talked to.”
With the recent events taking place, it’s imperative that every Airmen knows the chaplain’s door is always open.
“It’s hard to ask for help,” said Nelson. “That doesn’t change if you’re just asking how to do something at work, but it’s even harder when you’re dealing with personal issues. You don’t fully understand your own emotions with what you’re dealing with. It could be anything that could bother you. To ask for help is a huge step. If you’re struggling don’t be afraid. Don’t feel judged. The chaplain will always pick up the phone and be happy to talk to you. We always have time for you.”
While you can often find solace in a meeting with a chaplain, sometimes the chaplain finds you.
“Because of COVID-19, we’ve been teleworking so it’s hard to be physically present,” said Nelson. “I’m the Chaplain for the maintainers and they didn’t slow down reaching out to me at all so I haven’t been able to go out and meet people face-to-face. With recent events with the injustices in this nation, there’s a greater need for people to talk things out and have that human interaction.”
It’s with the current circumstances one can see exactly how chaplains go above and beyond for their people.
“I’ve worked it out with the first sergeants, and we’ve been going out to flight lines and having discussion groups,” said Nelson. “It’s important to listen because there’s a lot of hurt that’s out there and things that are left unsaid. People are suffering in silence and I’m trying to open those dialogues to get people to both talk and listen.”
Chaplains work together with mental health, behavioral health, First Sergeants, Military and Family Life Consultants and offices all over the base. While they aren’t the only resiliency experts on base, they’re often the first in line; and a great resource.