Chaplains in training visit Spangdahlem

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Seminary students go through a lengthy process prior to becoming ministers, and the training is even more in-depth to become military chaplains.

U.S. Air Force 2nd Lieutenants Madison Hayes and Lennox Vu, Readiness and Integration Organization Detachment 5 Chaplain Candidate Program candidates, visited Spangdahlem Air Base this summer in preparation to become chaplains.

Finding comfort in his decision to become a chaplain and leaving his enlisted Air Force career was a two-year process, Hayes said.

“I was fulfilled in my enlisted job,” Hayes said, “and I felt like I was doing a good service to my country, but I just felt like I had more to give of myself.”

After separating from active duty, Hayes worked with a recruiter to get a slot in Officer Training School.

“While I was doing that I was starting my first year of seminary school,” said Hayes, who attends classes in Rome.

Vu, previously enlisted in the U.S. Navy, attends seminary school in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Vu initially looked into serving as a Navy chaplain, but a slot in the Air Force opened sooner.

“I felt there was a need for chaplains because military members give so much,” Vu said. “So I feel that they deserve the best care spiritually, mentally, and I just want to be there whenever they need me.”

Vu will complete seminary school in a year and a half.

During the summers between each school year, candidates travel to different bases to learn the Chaplain Corps’ mission, shadow a chaplain and spend time with Airmen, Hayes said.

Hayes arrived here July, 2018, and Vu arrived June, 2018, each serving a 40-day internship to prepare them for their ministries.

“The first summer was called Chaplain Candidate Intensive Internship, and you do Commissioned Officer Training,” Hayes said.

Hayes spent the summer of 2017 training at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, and this summer, Spangdahlem.

 “We have an official training program that we run through,” Hayes said. “So the officer side of things — how to run a chapel, how to work with leadership, how to provide spiritual care to Airmen, how to come to squadron visitation — things like that you don’t necessarily experience in a parish.”

Unlike most civilian ministries, military chaplains support all religious faiths, Vu said. Some ministers join the military thinking they will only take care of people in their own faith group.

“We learn how to be a good priest or a good pastor or a good Buddhist monk,” Hayes said. “The summer training that we do helps kind of solidify that, and gives you experience talking to Airmen.”

The candidates also shadow a chaplain to prepare for their new career, Hayes said.

“I believe that preparation is important because it allows me to understand what other chaplains have to go through,” Vu said, “and how they balance between clergy and officer.”

Seminary teaches students how to respond to people’s spiritual needs, Hayes said.

“People go to the chapel for counseling; they go for religious needs,” Hayes said “You have to be spiritually prepared yourself to help people grow in their spiritual life and be spiritually fit. That’s the seminary side of things.”

Actually becoming a chaplain is not for every candidate, Hayes said.

“It is kind of like a testing relationship for the candidate and for the Air Force,” Hayes said.

It is difficult for some ministers because they feel convicted, Vu said. The program allows them to find out if they are fit for the U.S. Air Force.

“We are rated and go through training programs and evaluations just like any other training program would be by Air Force standards,” Hayes said.

Although training is in-depth and lengthy, the candidates are grateful for the experience, Hayes said.

“It’s a blessing for sure,” Hayes said. “Being able to just learn from the chaplains that we have — to see their commitment, dedication, and kind of try and live up to their example.”