ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- They stand ready to provide
spiritual care and guidance at a moment's notice, in any given
situation, anywhere in the world.
To help prepare them for
that responsibility, 22 second lieutenants in the Chaplain Candidate
Program – were immersed in combat scenarios during July 2015 at
the 5th Combat Communications Group's Combat Readiness School.
Chaplains have a noncombatant status, so it may appear ironic
that they were being put through combat situations.
was imperative these young officers participated in the school's
inaugural training event which provides a level of realism they
could experience, should they ever find themselves in a combat
July 16, 2015 - Candidates for the Air Force Chaplain Corps render a salute along with members of the 5th Combat Communications Group as they observe a 78th Force Support Squadron Honor Guard detail rehearse an active duty funeral honors ceremony. The candidates who came to Robins from across the service were taking part in the Chaplain Candidate Program. The ceremony provided the candidates an opportunity to view a ceremony conducted by a full 21 person detail and have questions answered by a seasoned chaplain. While at Robins the candidates were also immersed into combat readiness scenarios with the 5th CCG at Gator Air Base at the southeastern corner of base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tommie Horton)
Instructors embedded the chaplain candidates with a 5th
CCG class already in place to allow them to experience what
it would be like to have an improvised explosive device
deployed nearby, hear a mortar attack, take part in convoy
operations or be shot at by an enemy.
trying to do is inoculate them so they either know how to
react or are familiar with that sensation of adrenaline and
stress,” said Tech Sgt. Till Schanz, 5th CCG Combat
Readiness School NCOIC.
Temperatures reached 99
degrees on the day of training. By the time it ended, the
candidates had spent nearly 36 hours at Gator Air Base at
the southeastern corner of base. That included sleeping two
nights on cots in tents.
Taking a break from
training, and the heat, two candidates were escorted by a
third airman with a rifle.
“This training was good
to make sure you're not a liability in the field,” said 2nd
Lt. Navhira Mascorro, originally from Bakersfield, Calif.
“You're there to perform a task. While we were simulating
helping an injured civilian, it was good to learn we weren't
a security threat.”
Second Lt. Steven Henderson,
from Los Angeles, agreed.
“We're there to help
airmen – not get in their way,” he said. “We try to learn to
be good listeners and not impose religion, but to hear their
needs and try to meet them.”
Among the scenarios,
several candidates were part of a mission with special
operators, caught in a simulated village setting. And, they
were part of a church group supporting African nationals
with food, water, medical and spiritual aid.
included rescuing a female in duress who was hit by an IED,
with candidates comforting family members, and other
scenarios challenging candidates to see if they would pick
up a weapon and engage in combatant activities, which is
forbidden under the Geneva Conventions.
bomber was shot during one scenario, further challenging
candidates to provide spiritual and moral support to the
shooter who took him down. That played out as if it were
real to them.
Two chaplain assistants took part in
the training, and are the combatant arm of the chaplain
corps. They're able to bear arms and provide security for
“They were shot at quite a bit. They were
tempted to grab a weapon, especially when stuck in a
building, and the only chance they have is to surrender,”
said Schanz of the chaplain candidates.
overall training, he added, “It's gone very well, a flawless
By U.S. Air Force 78th Air Base Wing PAO
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