In an effort to promote resiliency, Air Force Reserve Command is placing 10 Active Guard/Reserve chaplains and 30 AGR first sergeants at select Reserve locations around the country.
Hiring authorization for the positions became effective in October.
In late 2019, Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee, chief of the Air Force Reserve and AFRC commander, held a leadership meeting to do a “deep dive” specifically regarding resiliency.
At the meeting, leaders discussed the need to have helping resources more readily available at more locations, which meant creating additional full-time positions. They felt the need was greatest at stand-alone host locations, where members of Reserve organizations cannot benefit from a relationship with a host unit.
Additionally, chaplains and first sergeants are typically used in crisis management roles. While their involvement in these situations is vital, this is the reactive component of their duties and only a part of what they can proactively bring to the whole concept of resiliency.
“Resiliency is a state of mind,” said Chief Master Sgt. Travon Dennis, AFRC first sergeant functional manager. When people think of resiliency, they often think of suicide prevention, he said, but added that it’s also hugely important for overall mission readiness.
Senior leaders looked at a variety of factors when deciding where to add the new chaplain and first sergeant positions, including location, size, mission, whether or not the unit was a stand-alone, and if it already had full-time positions.
For both chaplains and first sergeants, one shared challenge in the past has been the process of getting them to where they were most needed in a timely fashion. This involved having to find members who could temporarily leave their non-military obligations, cutting orders, authorizing travel and more.
“When issues and concerns arose during the week, getting a chaplain was difficult due to their civilian jobs and distance from the base,” said Chaplain (Col.) James Danford, AFRC deputy command chaplain. “The counseling data and trends from the reports we received from the field draw attention to the need for the full-time support.”
The 10 chaplains, comprised of majors and lieutenant colonels, will join enlisted religious affairs Airmen to complete full-time Religious Support Teams at each location.
Their hiring completes the full-time helping agency support and provides for spiritual resiliency and confidential care for Airmen and their families, Danford said.
Chaplains in the field are excited about the new positions.
“I do believe that building relationships with Airmen is extremely important and it does take time to establish these connections,” said Chaplain (Maj.) John Rollyson, deputy wing chaplain at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida. “When the Airmen see a chaplain in their work centers on a regular basis and they know the chaplain is there because they genuinely care about them and want to support them, this opens up so many doors of communication. Being able to do this on a full-time basis will greatly enhance the morale and spiritual fitness of the wing.”
Similar to the chaplains, the 30 first sergeant positions will primarily be at host-unit locations.
“This will add a great asset to the command team, contributing full-time efforts as part of the triad of executive leadership,” Dennis said.
This includes having the pulse of the organization, inspiring morale, monitoring valuable programs and participating in the career progression of Airmen.
“They’re making decisions that affect people’s careers,” he said. “So we have to do the absolute best for our Airmen.” #ReserveResilient
(Grant is assigned to the Air Reserve Personnel Center public affairs office.) ■