By Kevin Gaddie
/ Published August 20, 2020
Chaplain (Capt.) James Taylor, 96th Test Wing Chapel, and chapel staff look on as the Defense Health Agency presents the chapel team with the DHA Ready and Resilient Award in a virtual ceremony Aug. 14 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The team received the award for their COVID-19 response efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kevin Gaddie)
The 96th Test Wing Chapel received the Defense Health Agency Ready and Resilient Award for its COVID-19 response efforts during a virtual ceremony here Aug. 14.
The chapel team won for providing spiritual response and resiliency services to approximately 92,000 base and community members, as they adjusted their normal operations to help combat virus-related challenges.
Unit commanders, chiefs and first sergeants sought out chapel assistance in helping their Airmen and families deal with the stress caused by the pandemic, according to Chaplain (Col.) Jonathan Wade, wing chaplain.
Chapel staff visited unit workplaces and engaged personnel directly to provide spiritual care and support. The staff fielded an average of three to five spiritual care requests per day and provided virtual counseling when in-person counseling was not possible.
They gave approximately 700 spiritual care kits to dorm residents, and a spiritual morale visit to base housing residents. They also conducted virtual community care programs.
Wade said the chapel provided spiritual guidance and counsel to more than 260 base civilians. The top issues were relationships, anxiety and workplace stress.
The chaplain said suicide intervention was a significant area his team assisted with in the first months of the pandemic. The team conducted 31 suicide interventions in six months, more than triple their annual average.
He said they fielded emergency response calls after two aircraft incidents and conducted 15 responses to deaths of military members or dependents.
The chapel also assisted the 96th Medical Group in several areas. Among them, they provided sacramental and end-of-life rites to COVID-19 patients. They collaborated with medical group to convert the hospital’s chapel into a comprehensive Airman fitness center. It allows staff and patients to find spiritual, physical, social, and mental comfort and resilience.
The chapel coordinated with the Invisible Wounds Clinic to prepare space in the Intrepid Spirit Center for spiritual readiness, healing and resilience care for traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress patients.
“I am very proud of the chapel team,” he said. “We are among the base’s first responders requested by leadership when crises affect their units. Our team is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”