MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
Editor's Note: This month's Chaplain's Reflections article is from Master Sgt. John Baltz, the Superintendent of Chapel Operations and a Religious Affairs Airman with the 169th Fighter Wing Chaplain's Office.
“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” - Proverbs 18:24 (NIV)
At the beginning of 2020, I was deployed to Central Asia in my role as a Religious Affairs Airman. Little did I know that January would prove to be quite the preview for what the rest of 2020 would turn out to be like. During that month alone, myself and the chaplain who was my Religious Support Team (RST) partner, were involved in providing religious support, counseling, and comfort during four events: a memorial service for two fallen Soldiers, a memorial service for two fallen Airmen, a missile launch from a neighboring country, and finally a suicide intervention involving a young Soldier who was back here in the United States.
As Airmen, and more specifically as guardsmen, we receive a lot of training within our AFSCs, and other training within the Air Force that we never know exactly when we might need to use in the real world. One of the topics all Airmen receive training in is Suicide Prevention. In my career field as a Religious Affairs Airman, we receive training and certification specifically related to suicide prevention during technical school.
The last of the four events that I mentioned, the suicide intervention, happened when a young Airman 1st Class came into my office and wanted to speak with the Chaplain about his friend from high school who he thought was acting suicidal on social media. The chaplain was not in the office at the time so I began to speak with the Airman about his friend. Shortly after we started talking, we attempted to contact the young Soldier using the Airman’s phone. His friend was ignoring the calls. So I attempted to use my phone and was successful in getting the friend on the line. During my conversation with the Soldier, we determined that he had swallowed about a half bottle of pills. Also during our conversation the chaplain returned back to the office and we were able to get pertinent information from the Soldier and use the chaplain’s phone to contact his first sergeant who stayed on the line with us until he reached the Soldier’s location. Medical help arrived at the same time as we could hear the sirens pulling up. Thankfully, the young man’s life was saved. It was a team effort and it all started with the Airman who was concerned for his friend, for his brother. I hope as Airmen, as brothers and sisters in arms, that we would all have the knowledge and wisdom to recognize when a Wingman is acting unusual and may need help to get through whatever trial may be upon them.
In Proverbs 18:24, the Bible speaks about how a person who has friends must also be friendly to begin with. The word friend could easily be defined as “one who loves”. However, in life, some of the friends we choose are chosen without much wisdom, and when it matters the most, those friends show themselves to be not the best choices we have made. On the other hand, when a friend is chosen wisely, that friend is more loyal than a brother. The Airman that came into my office was “one who loved” his friend and showed concern for him when it mattered most.
What kind of friend are you? What kinds of friends do you have? Your friendly 169th Fighter Wing Chaplain Corps staff is here to provide support and guidance in how to build close relationships and strong bonds between yourself, your family, and your friends. Our team will be hosting a Strong Bonds Individuals event on the Saturday of June drill, June 4, 2022. Please see the flier posted for further details. The 169FW Chaplain Corps office is located in Building 1070, across from the medical facility. Our office phone number is 803-647-8265 and our email org box is 169.FW.169.FW.Chaplains.firstname.lastname@example.org. Please let us know how we may be able to help you.