Face of Defense: Chaplain Serves Deployment in Antarctica
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Murphy
185th Air Refueling Wing, Iowa Air National Guard
MCMURDO STATION, Antarctica, Dec. 3, 2012 As the cool winter air begins to roll into Sioux City, Iowa, Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) William Vit is feeling a much colder breeze.
Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) William Vit of Sioux City, Iowa, stands at the geographic South Pole. Vit, a priest at the Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City and a member of the Iowa Air National Guard's 185th Air Refueling Wing, is in the Antarctic for a two-month deployment with the National Guard in support of Operation Deep Freeze. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Murphy
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Vit, an Air National Guard chaplain with the 185th Air Refueling Wing and a priest for the Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City, has been deployed here since October with the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing in support of Operation Deep Freeze. He provides ministry services to military and civilian personnel conducting their mission on the world's coldest continent.
"I enjoy the diversity of the people who are here,” the chaplain said. “From military to scientists and everything in-between, I am able to meet a wide variety of people."
In addition to serving the population at the McMurdo Station, Vit also serves about 160 people stationed at the geographic South Pole. The most difficult part of this deployment, he said, is dealing with the harsh environment.
"Equipment doesn't always work like it does when everything is warm,” he explained. “I tried to take pictures with my digital camera at the South Pole, but with wind chills of 50 below zero, the electronics don't even work. At the South Pole, when we finally found a well-insulated camera that functioned in the cold, it was still hard to take the picture, as the flash button is not designed to accommodate a shivering person with two layers of gloves."
While coping with the extreme temperatures, Vit said, he enjoys working with researchers and has found a common interest: the desire to seek the truth. “While our fields of study may be vastly different, our desires and motivations are strikingly similar,” he said. “As a chaplain, I have enjoyed hearing about all of this work and sharing my appreciation for their research and mission."
Vit said he is moved by the support he received at home concerning his deployment. "I spoke with members from my local church to make sure I could be away for the given time,” he said, “and was actually encouraged by them to participate."
Air Force Chaplain (Maj.) Steven Peters, the full-time Chaplain with the 185th, said Vit's dedication to the Air National Guard and its mission is impressive, especially considering his responsibilities with his parish.
"Chaplain Vit is incredibly busy with his position in his parish. Yet, he feels called to military chaplaincy, and he has made serving the Air National Guard his priority," he said. "Whenever he takes something on, he does it with passion and goes above and beyond what is expected."
Vit will return from this deployment in the coming weeks and another chaplain will deploy to replace him. "As the new priest takes my place, we are fortunate that he can begin where I end and serve the Lord's people living and working here in Antarctica,” Vit said.