Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A lesson in Discipleship

by Senior Airman Nathan Maysonet
47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

6/25/2014 - LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas  -- Air Force Chaplains serve the serving; they are trusted counselors who mentor fellow Airmen and help them navigate troubled waters, but before one may take on the responsibility of strengthening Airmen spiritually, one must first complete the Chaplain Candidate Program.

For the past five weeks, Laughlin's chapel has hosted one of these candidates here, helping to grow him into a potential Air Force chaplain.

Second Lt. Paul Walker, 47th Flying Training Wing chaplain candidate, arrived on base May 19 for one of his required supervised internships with an active duty unit as part of the Chaplain Candidate Program.

"I have enjoyed the people here," said Walker. "The base is kind of out in nowhere but that is what makes the community stronger. I like being able to meet people here and interact with them, I like learning about what they do to complete Laughlin's mission."

Walker, who attends the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, joined the Air Force's chaplain program after deciding that he wanted to minister to the Air Force.

"I knew I wanted to be a chaplain," said Walker. "In 2010, I started to interview chaplains to get a feel for their duties and responsibilities and I eventually joined the seminary at Southeastern. I knew from the start I wanted to serve in the Air Force because I'm an Air Force brat and I respect the military culture."

Determined to serve, Walker spoke with recruiters, and decided to enter the Chaplain Candidate Program.

Candidates in the program join the reserves while working toward a Master of Divinity degree or the equivalent while enrolled full time in seminary or some other professional school of religion to become a representative of their faith. After completing the program, Airmen remain in the reserves and must complete years of religious work in their communities before being considered for active duty.

During the summer months, candidates complete approximately 115 days of active duty training including Officer Training School, Chaplain Candidate Course and supervised internships, which is what brings Walker to Laughlin.

"These active duty internships are very similar to college internships," said Walker. "It's like an engagement, the Air Force and you are testing each other out."

Since arriving, Walker has shadowed Laughlin's chaplains learning how to minister to Airmen and meet their needs. He has done invocations, preached and given speeches in and around the community.

"He has done a lot for Laughlin," said Chaplain (Maj.) Andrew McIntosh, 47th FTW chaplain. "Invocations, parenting retreats, single Airman dinners and more. The list goes on of the things he has been involved with in the ministry here."

For Walker, Laughlin has been the perfect place to gain a better understanding of the responsibilities the Air Force may ask of him in the future as a chaplain.

"I've been to Air Combat Command bases, which have a different mission and challenges, but Air Education and Training Command has its own culture," said Walker. "Here at Laughlin and the rest of AETC, the mission is about mentorship, everyone is learning something, both instructors and students and everyone in between."

According to Walker, Laughlin is the definition of discipleship.

"You learn by doing your best, and this base does it the best, discipleship is big here," said Walker. "Here, if you need to know something people will stop what they are doing and show you. I learned the value of people here and the importance of what people do. As a reservist in training, I don't get to see that a lot. Getting to see the mission here, the duties Airmen have, learning about their families and what it's like living in a remote place like Laughlin has been great."

As his time here comes to an end, Walker's experience has made him more determined than ever to serve the country and his faith in the Air Force.

"The program goes by so quick," said Walker. "Just when you think you know people you are gone. Here at Laughlin I can recognize people and I got to know them and spend time with them while being here, but it is good moving around because it forces you to put yourself out there and stick your neck out. I definitely want to stay in the Air Force, because I bleed blue."

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