Deployed Chaplain Works With, For Airmen
(September 30, 2009)
Staff Sgt. Chris Martin (left), 447th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron installation patrolman, performs a buddy check on Chaplain (Capt.) Chad Montgomery, 447th Air Expeditionary Group, to ensure the chaplain is properly wearing his protective body armor prior to a security patrol at Sather Air Base, Iraq, Sept. 10, 2009. Chaplain Montgomery has made it his goal to get involved by helping Airmen with their daily missions and training during his deployment.
U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Johnny L. Saldivar
| ||SATHER AIR BASE, Iraq (9/23/2009 - AFNS)|
For Capt. Chad Montgomery, every day is an adventure. One he might help train military working dogs, another he may be found changing the brakes on a Humvee and he's even been known to help pour cement or volunteer to go on patrol with security forces Airmen.
But while he may be considered a jack of all trades, he is still master of one. He is the chaplain for the 447th Air Expeditionary Group, and while most chaplains visit their assigned units on a regular basis, Chaplain Montgomery has made it his goal to experience the jobs his Airmen do every day.
"I call it incarnation visitation," Chaplain Montgomery said. "Really what that means is, it's one thing to show up and care -- that's great. But a lot of guys -- males and females -- won't open up. They don't know you, they don't know if they can trust you."
|So, to build the Airmen's faith in him, the chaplain has spent hours outside the chapel helping Airmen with their tasks. These range from military working dog training with the 447th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, to changing brakes on a vehicle with Airmen from the 447th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron. |
"I don't think people realize or know what your job is unless they do it," the chaplain said. "I think people just think chaplains play with flannel graphs or something, or just tell Sunday school stories."
Getting dirty with the Airmen is a great way to open the doors to communication, he added.
"When they see you out there sweating to the point you feel like puking, when you're pushing pallets with them, when you're out there getting attacked by a dog, saying 'hey, I'm here with you,' it's amazing the conversations that'll come up," the chaplain said.
Captain Montgomery's road to becoming a chaplain began at a young age, when his mother would introduce him as "her little minister."
"The seeds that my parents planted in me as a child have grown to fruition. That's a big thing -- the music they had us listen to, the love that they showed me. A lot of what I do as a chaplain honestly comes from them," he said.
But he learned more than career ambitions from his parents. They also taught him his now valuable communication skills and work ethic.
"I feel like I learned how to listen from my mother, and how to care for people," he said. "My dad also taught me that, but dad was really good at 'you talk while you work.' We had many of our best conversations shoveling up rocks, cutting grass in the evening, and so I just apply that."
This technique has proven successful. All around the base, Airmen are impressed, and encouraged, by their chaplain.
"Seeing the chaplain out doing this kind of stuff makes him more approachable," said Staff. Sgt. David Newell, with the 447th ESFS. "By talking to him, he seems like he's a normal, nice guy. It's not like 'I don't know the chaplain, so I'm not comfortable talking to him.'"
Chaplain Montgomery uses this same "work among them" technique at his home station at Lackland AFB, Texas, where he serves as a basic military training chaplain.
"I've been through the gas chamber like 20 times -- I know, it's sick," he said. "We see who can take the pain for as long as possible. We're not about promoting ourselves -- God gets the glory, that's the ultimate key in everything. It's also showing that you're not a wimp when you become a chaplain."
Showing support through his actions is something the chaplain says he will continue to do throughout his career.
"The encouragement has been great," he said. "Not that we need it, but it's nice to know God is using you in people's lives. There have been a bunch of people who have come up and said 'thank you for helping me with my marriage, and for being willing to say things that come across tough but I needed to hear to grow.'"
Chaplain Montgomery also pointed out that those who do not have a specific religious belief should not feel apprehensive about approaching a chaplain for counseling.
"I am a pastor to some, but a chaplain to all," he said. "I talk to people who aren't interested in God. It doesn't matter what their beliefs are; that doesn't change my care or the ability to have fun with them. I'm the beneficiary for people who have poured themselves into my life, and now it's my opportunity and privilege to pour into other's lives for their benefit."
By Sr. Airman Alyssa C. Miles
U.S. Air Forces Central Public Affairs
Reprinted from Air Force News Service
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