Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Dondi Costin, U.S. Air Force chief of chaplains, and more than a dozen chaplains and chaplain assistants from U.S. Pacific Air Forces spent time with U.S. Airmen and their South Korean counterparts in a visit to the Republic of Korea March 20 – 23, 2018.
Costin and Chaplain (Col.) Sung IL Kim, Republic of Korea (ROK) air force chief of chaplains, led the first of its kind joint training and cultural exchange between the religious support teams. This training is part of a series of ongoing training bilateral engagements between the two nations.
The chaplains and their assistants worked together to build not only the resiliency of their respective forces but build upon their alliance and friendships as well.
The group shared ideas and experiences from both on and off the battlefield about how to better assist U.S. and South Korean forces in maintaining their spiritual fitness as well as their mental and physical fitness.
“We’re here to help Airmen, help Soldiers, Sailors and Marines – our warfighters – and their families to get the job done,” said Costin. “The chaplain’s job is to walk alongside with the chaplain assistant, walk alongside the warfighters and their family members, through good times and bad times. We’re there for every Airman, whether a person is a person of faith or of no faith; the chaplain corps is there for them.”
Through joint training the chaplains from both nations were able to garner a better understanding of how each service approaches the same challenges and to better enable Airmen to be more resilient.
“The position of a chaplain is one that builds on spiritual resiliency,” said Chaplain (Maj.) David Sarmiento, from the 163d Attack Wing, California Air National Guard. “We’re able to be the sounding block for the Airmen because we have absolute confidentiality. We’re there to serve in any way possible to encourage them, to look out for them emotionally, physically and most importantly, spiritually.”
Resiliency is an individual’s ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity or any other adverse condition.
Costin said that many Airmen may feel that the word resiliency eludes to another program and that they will tune it out. He and the chaplain corps are striving for Airmen and other warfighters to incorporate resiliency as part of a normal lifestyle.
“People talk about resiliency as being the ability to bounce back,” said Costin. “We know from human experience that difficulties are going to come, we know that we’re all going to have trouble, and the question is are we going to be prepared when these troubles come?”
The chaplains said the responsibilities they strive to achieve are ensuring Airmen are prepared for the trouble that comes and are given the tools they need to have a better chance at bouncing back and demonstrating their resilience reguardless of their religious preference.
For those who don’t observe a religion, one goal the chaplain corps strives to achieve is to help those Airmen take principals of different belief systems and apply them to improve their spiritual fitness.
Chaplains want to ensure that Airmen and other warfighters have the skill sets, attitudes, and capabilities required to be physically fit, to be socially fit, to be mentally fit and to be spiritually fit to carry out the mission.
“The most important thing about us is not the rank on our shoulders, but the symbol of our faith,” said Costin about the chapel corps role in the mission.