Feature   Defense News

Air Force Chaplains Continue to Inspire Despite COVID-19 Restrictions

May 7, 2020 | BY AIR FORCE SENIOR AIRMAN CHRISTOPHER QUAIL

With restrictions in place to keep people safe and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, chaplains at Dover Air Force Base, Del., channeled their creativity into finding new ways of inspiring airmen and offering innovative methods to support spiritual resilience.

''We started recording our Sunday services during the week in parts, so that each part comes together as if you are almost viewing the service in person,'' said Air Force Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Abner Valenzuela, the head chaplain for the 436th Airlift Wing. ''Using the camera, audio devices and editing tools is something that I am new to and enjoying learning more about. We are currently taking as much feedback as possible while trying to provide the best videos, so that others can still continue their services or spiritual guidance online.''

A chaplain speaking in front of a video camera.
Digital Services
Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Jonathan Dawson, a chaplain with the 436th Airlift Wing, speaks during a service recording at Chapel 1 on Dover Air Force Base, Del., April 25, 2020. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the recordings are created during the week and aired on Sunday. The recordings allow the chapel to provide services while ensuring people's safety.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Quail
VIRIN: 200425-F-NX530-1006

The Catholic and Protestant services air Sundays at 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., respectively, on the Dover chapel's Facebook page.

''This is the way we have adjusted for the COVID-19 environment,'' said Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Andre Davis. ''Nobody else is here except for us when we are recording it. We can watch it as a party with others, and the chaplains can interact with individuals during the live time.''

The services are available any time after the premiere on the Chapel's Facebook page.

A ''Thought of the Day'' video on spiritual resilience, ethics or morality is also posted every day at 9 a.m.

A candle being lit.
Candle Lighting
An Air Force chaplain lights a candle before recording a Sunday service at Dover Air Force Base, Del., April 25, 2020. Due to base and state shelter-in-place orders, Dover chaplains prerecorded services during the week and posted them to social media sites on traditional days of worship. These virtual services allow members of Team Dover to participate from the comfort and safety of their homes.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Quail
VIRIN: 200425-F-NX530-1001

''We have been gaining some great momentum in our online services and intend to see how we can integrate this into normal operations moving forward,'' Davis said.

Adhering to the implemented health protection measures, chaplains, along with the base's first sergeants, also began weekly visits to airmen in the dorms.

''We meet with the first sergeants of the squadrons we are assigned to, and they have a roster with all the airmen's names on it,'' said Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Jonathan Dawson. ''After viewing the roster, the first sergeant and I will go room by room and knock on their doors. When the airman answers the door, we make sure to keep our social distance while wearing our masks and ask how they are doing, and if there is anything that we could do for them.''

Dawson said he offers airmen his cell phone number in case they ever need guidance or someone to talk to. He reassures them that he is only a text or call away.

A chaplain speaking while being video recorded.
Chaplains On Camera
Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Andre Davis, a chaplain with the 436th Airlift Wing, speaks during a service recording at Chapel 1 on Dover Air Force Base, Del., April 25, 2020. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the recordings are created during the week and aired on Sunday. The recordings allow the chapel to provide services while ensuring people's safety.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Quail
VIRIN: 200425-F-NX530-1010

While the chaplains are doing their best to reach out to all members on base, they are also making squadron visits, delivering food, snacks and offering a friendly face or ear to those in need.

''Chaplain [Capt.] Ryan Taylor-Byers and I just went and purchased a couple hundred dollars' worth of snacks and food,'' Dawson said. ''We then went and delivered the snacks to the squadrons, and airmen were glad to help us bring it in. In about two or three weeks, we will go and replenish the food and snacks.''

Every week, chaplains text or call leaders to see how they are doing, giving them updates on airmen and seeing if there is anything else they may need.

''We want everyone to know that the chaplains are still available 24/7 if anyone needs to talk,'' Davis said. ''We ensure confidentiality and will take the appropriate steps to take care of you, whether it be through Facetime, text, call, Facebook Messenger or face to face, wearing the appropriate gear.''

(Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Quail is assigned to the 436th Airlift Wing.)