Chapel team cultivates healthy community, wins PACAF award

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Sadie Colbert
  • 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

In order to support nearly 11,000 Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and their dependents, it takes a team of dedicated service members and volunteers to ensure the four Comprehensive Airmen Fitness pillars are fully met.

In late February, the 35th Fighter Wing Chapel Corps won the Pacific Air Forces’ Terrance P. Finnegan award for their dedication to Team Misawa.

“We are excited to have won the award,” expressed Chap. (Capt.) Ralph Elliott, the 35th FW deputy chaplain. “It was tough competition because you are competing with all the chapel organizations in the Pacific Air Forces.”

The Team Misawa chapel staff competed against nine other installations for their award. They directed 174 comprehensive Airmen fitness programs, raised $96,000 for Airmen care, recruited and trained 378 volunteers and revitalized their chapel youth program.

They also facilitated three 9-week finance seminars, enabling 63 families saving $193,000 and cancelled 121 credit cards, eliminating approximately $400,000 in debt.

“I enjoy this career field a lot,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Jeffers, a 35th FW chaplain’s assistant. “It’s our job to take care of people, and we have the privilege of seeing the immediate outcome of our actions and how it affects them.”

The chapel corps takes time to embed with different squadrons around the base allowing them face-to-face time with Airmen, which they say is key to aiding Misawa’s personnel and their families.

“Connecting to Airmen is an important dynamic of what we provide not only as a helping agency, but as a ministry to our wingmen,” said Master Sgt. William Anderson, the 35th FW chapel superintendent. “We are right there in the manning fight with everyone else and I think this award is a reflection of the huge impact we’ve accomplished with what little personnel we have.”

Anderson added the chapel hosts many trips and programs in order to better connect with service members.

“The trips and events we hold to build Airmen’s resiliency are integral to our mission,” Anderson said. “When we take people out and build these relationships, that’s when they come to us the most. They open up about a serious problem they’ve been having, because it’s a lot easier for them to talk to you on a snow-shoe hike than having to come to the chapel building.”

Anderson added he was impressed with how much the Misawa chapel team gets done and recognizes why they’re unique.

“We function as a helping agency, but also as a base church in a semi-isolated area,” Anderson said. “I think what we’ve done has really stood out. The chapel hosts the Team Misawa Resilient Relationships and Appreciation Day, which is a wing-wide event. I haven’t seen a chapel put on a day that huge in a long time.”

Elliott added without their volunteers the chapel could not flourish as much as they do.

“Our partnership with other helping agencies is the key to our success,” Elliott said. “We are minimally staffed and we can’t make it work without a dedicated volunteer workforce.”

Elliott said although the team won the award, he knows other installations and what they do still matters.

“At every location we have a great team of chaplains and chaplain assistants who work hard every day,” he said. “They not only maintain ministries like worship for several services, but maintain squadron focused warrior care, which is important because our service members are who power the military.”

“What we do every day is our passion,” Elliot added. “We worked hard and we know we earned this, but if we hadn’t won it, we still would have taken pride in what we’ve accomplished over the past year.”