Testing the water
By Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan, 94th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 02, 2016
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
Twenty-five freshly minted lieutenants are one step closer to realizing their dream of becoming Air Force Reserve Chaplains after completing a summer training program.
Twenty-two of the chaplain candidates began their arduous journey with a five-week Commissioned Officer Training (COT) course at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. COT, specifically designed for health care, legal and clergy officers, emphasizes teamwork, discipline, fundamentals of leadership and an understanding of the Air Force mission. This foundation is the first layer in which the chaplain candidates will build upon as they enter military service.
After COT, the candidates received conditional commissioning that allowed them to continue on to the 35-day Chaplain Candidate Intensive Internship program (C2I2), which exposed them to the active-duty, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard missions. During the internship, the candidates were also introduced to the core competences that are required of chaplains to perform their mission in a diverse, pluralistic, high-paced and demanding Air Force.
Over the course of six weeks, the candidates observed, trained, exercised, reflected and learned from representatives of six major commands on six installations where they were able to interact with dozens of squadrons and take in a more robust slice of Air Force life from civilian, officer and enlisted perspectives.
“This program gives these newly commissioned second lieutenant candidates the opportunity to discern whether or not they truly feel they are being called by a higher power to serve in one of the three U.S. Air Force components,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Pierre Allegre of the 446th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. “For the Religious Support Team, this process provides an opportunity to mentor and evaluate the candidates, which aids in the vectoring process for their next tour of duty.”
For the candidates, the last week of their summer tour ended at Robins AFB where they were immersed in fast-paced mobility training conducted by active-duty instructors from the 5th Combat Communications Support Squadron (CBCSS). This mobility training, typically a two-week process, was condensed and compacted to fit into the two-day window the candidates had available. They received instruction on self-aid and buddy care, land navigation, and mock scenarios that were aimed to prepare them for what they could possibly see in a deployed environment.
Tech. Sgt. Charles Pickett of the 5th CBCSS said his goal for the training was to educate the candidates to a degree that will allow them to possibly save someone’s life.
“My goal is to take green lieutenants, folks who know nothing about combat medicine, and give them a tool that can affect lives,” Pickett said. “This is just a small taste of medicine, but this is for their benefit; and I promise that it will save a life.”
For two nights, candidates slept in tents and ate meals-ready-to-eat in the Georgia summer heat and humidity. On their final night in field conditions, the candidates went on a convoy and entered a mock scenario. Their convoy vehicles became disabled, and they fell under heavy “gunfire,” resulting in casualties. This scenario tested everything they had learned thus far and challenged their capabilities and resolve.
“The scenario gave me a greater appreciation for the seriousness of the profession of arms,” said 2nd Lt. Chris Pitts, chaplain candidate. “It also opened my eyes to the fact that we rely solely on the skills and training of our chaplain assistants to protect us from harm.”
Not only does C2I2 provide a strategic overview of the military, it’s also a paid internship without any military commitment.
“This is a ‘test the water’ program,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Pendleton, Headquarters AFRC. “Whereas straight commissioning binds you to the contract you’ve signed. Through this program, you have the freedom to leave and be honorably discharged and likewise the AFR Chaplain Corps has that same freedom in discerning whether or not this ministry is a good fit for you and our Air Force family.”
At the conclusion of this program, the candidates will return to seminary until next summer when they will be put on a 35-day tour assigned to an active duty wing and supervised by an active duty chaplain.