Chaplain - A Friend In The Air Force
by U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Taryn Butler
April 8, 2020
“Airmen are not alone, and always have a friend in the Air Force: the chaplain.”
These words spoken by the 23d Wing chaplain lend proof that despite your background, who you are, having faith or no faith, Moody’s chapel staff strive to ensure no Airman is alone and helps in whatever capacity is needed by providing different services to Airmen around base.
“There’s safety here at the chapel,” said Lt. Col. Steven Cuneio, 23d Wing chaplain. “The chapel is a safe haven for Airmen to meet me, or a religious affairs Airman, to bare their soul. Regardless of whether you’re a four-star general or an airman basic, there comes a point in our lives where we need somebody.”
February 3, 2020 - Lt. Col. Steven Cuneio, right, 23d Wing chaplain, speaks with an Airman during a simulated counseling session , at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. The 11 Airmen assigned to the Moody Chapel provide all Airmen and their dependents the opportunity to freely exercise their religion. Other services, such as crisis intervention counseling, resiliency programs and leadership advising, are offered on a walk-in or appointment basis. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Taryn Butler)
The 11 Airmen assigned to the 23d Wing chapel provide all Airmen and their dependents the opportunity to freely exercise their religion. However, this is only one aspect of the services provided by Moody Chapel.
Other services, such as crisis intervention counseling, resiliency programs and leadership advising, are offered to people of any or no faith by appointment. If it’s an emergency, walk-ins are welcomed during the duty day, and after duty hours there is always a chaplain on-call who can be reached by contacting the Command Post.
“Our counseling services are unique to us because of the 100 percent confidentiality component,” said Cuneio. “What is said in the chaplain’s office stays in the chaplain’s office. If you don’t want to talk about religion, we don’t. We are here to meet you where you’re at, regardless of who you are. If we can’t specifically help you, we can always refer you to someone who can.”
Chaplains and religious affairs Airmen have been engaged in events such as retreats and studies, both designed to improve resiliency within Airmen. Marriage, couples, singles and squadron retreats often occur 1-2 times per year, whereas the studies typically occur weekly for a 3- to 4-month period.
“Retreats provide a temporary strategic pause for individuals to focus on strengthening relationships and connectedness to others, enhancing resiliency, and providing much-needed rest and relaxation from the daily grind of life and work,” Cuneio said. “[Studies are] important because it is a spiritual fitness opportunity that directly ‘strengthens a set of beliefs, principles, or values that sustain an individual’s sense of well-being and purpose.’”
For Tech. Sgt. Lance Chunn, 23d Maintenance Group Air Force Repair Enhancement Program technician, the Men’s Study, a group meeting that discusses issues men of faith may encounter, has given him tools he has applied to his own life.
“Being in Chaplain Cuneio’s Men’s Study has really helped me put all the happenings in life into perspective,” said Chunn. “In doing these things, stress levels have decreased and productivity has increased, not only at work but at home. I can’t help but notice that life is, and has become, less worrisome and more fulfilling when you fill your life with positive influences.”
Moody’s chapel staff don’t only serve individual Airmen. They also serve squadrons and different groups of Airmen, providing company in good times and bad.
A photo illustration of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steven Cuneio, right, 23d Wing chaplain, and U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Yolanda Wallace, 23d Wing religious affairs superintendent at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Taryn Butler - January 30, 2020)
“We’re a helping agency,” said Cuneio. “We send a chaplain and a religious affairs Airman for unit visitations to make sure they have a pulse. They are there to increase morale and, really, to be a ministry of presence if Airmen would need them.”
Most people associate religion with a chaplain, but a chaplain’s ultimate goal is to help all Airmen of any background.
“All chaplains are endorsed by a faith community,” Cuneio said. “Chaplains are ordained ministers, but they’re also officers. We have an obligation to make sure we uphold our denominational distinctives. At the same time, we’re here to care for all Airmen. If an Airman came in and asked me to help them in a particular way that violated the tenets of my faith, I would try to find someone on staff, or refer them to another helping agency on or off-base, to accommodate. I want all Airmen to know I care about them, so I always try to get to the ‘yes.’”
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