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A chaplain's counsel: a listening ear, sound advice

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Candy Miller
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
When someone looks for a listening ear or sound advice, personnel at the 82nd Training Wing Chapel Division is an option. 

Chapel counseling services at Sheppard are available for all personnel in various places and forms. 

"We are here to help the commander ensure freedom of religion, provide ethical and moral advice, and provide pastoral care or counseling," said the 82nd TRW Deputy Chaplain Lt. Col. Frederick McFarland. 

He said there are several ways people get counseling - the unit chaplain, worship services, discussion groups and some call and just take whoever is available. 

Chaplain McFarland said chaplains see about 40 people every month and they usually only counsel an individual one time. The chaplain said over 50 percent of counseling is about marriage, work or spirituality, but every individual is in a different situation. 

Counseling AIT 

The majority of the chapel's clientele are Airmen in Training, who can find a chaplain at the Solid Rock Café during SRC duty hours. 

The chaplain said he puts the most common AiT issues into two categories: consequences and strangers. 

He said he often tells the Airmen that there are consequences to their behavior and actions and they must be held accountable. He also tells them they are where they are in life, whether good or bad, because of the choices they have made. 

Chaplain McFarland said he calls the other category "strangers" because, unless they were raised in a military family, it's their first time being away from their hometown. They have to make friends from strangers. 

"They volunteered to be strangers and it's often difficult," Chaplain McFarland said. 

He also said AiT tend to struggle when something serious happens at home and they feel disconnected. 

"A lot of times, the Airmen struggle because there's a death and they can't be a part of it," he said. "When you deal with something heavy, you really feel removed from the community." 

The chaplain said he loves working with the students because, even through the hard times, a lot of them are excited to be in the military. The average Airman comes into the military with $8,000 of debt and they are making a better life for themselves. 

Deployments: stress for everyone 

Being in the military, part of the job involves deploying, which is not only hard on the individual, but also on family, friends and coworkers. Having deployed several times in his career, the chaplain spoke with experience. 

He said when a parent deploys it's especially difficult for children to go from having two parents to having one. 

"Even with the communication we have, those who deploy don't understand the uncertainty people that stay behind live with," Chaplain McFarland said. 

The chaplain said the individual deploying often lives with uncertainty as well. 

"It's often difficult to remember that there are people at home that love them," he said. 

He said the stress of a deployment can cause more problems for someone that is already struggling with issues. 

"Whether the weakness is in a marriage, at work or elsewhere, if you think you have a problem get help." Chaplain McFarland said. 

Services for all 

Sheppard is home to eight chaplains and six chaplain assistants who are ready to take care of anyone that walks through the door. It's not uncommon for nonreligious people to go to chaplains for counseling services, Chaplain McFarland said. 

"We have a culture of accepting the person that walks through the door," the chaplain said. "They usually just want someone to listen. The confidentiality is what attracts people to us." 

He said chaplains also have resources to handle specific religious issues for various religions. 

"We can point to resources of religious preference," he said. "We're going to take care of you. We give a lot of people a lot of support and we want to help." 

He said Sheppard provides religious support with several services, discussion groups and contacts for various religions, including Roman Catholics, Protestants, Latter Day Saints, Wiccans, and Buddhists. The chaplains also have Islam and Jewish contacts for those with that preference. 

Unit chaplains are available for more information on counseling services.