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June Chaplain's Reflections

Portrait of Chaplain, Capt. Benjamin McEntire, with the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Jan. 10, 2013.
(National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

Portrait of Chaplain, Capt. Benjamin McEntire, with the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Jan. 10, 2013. (National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD, S.C. -- First, it's good to be back at home after six months overseas! This deployment was my first, and it was a learning experience second to none. There are several points I learned that are worth keeping in mind.

Our work ethic speaks to our character. Toward the end of the deployment I heard an active duty senior NCO say that he'd always heard that the Guard was lazy but noted on this deployment he could tell the Guard showed up to work. The SNCO was impressed at the work ethic he saw from the Guard members he encountered, and it transformed the way he thought about the Air National Guard. Hearing the SNCO's change of perspective was a clear reminder that the work ethic we bring to our jobs, individually and corporately, can shape the way others regard us. That others watch the attitude and commitment we have to doing our jobs should motivate us to do our work well and keep a positive outlook.

Healthy relationships matter. For every person I counseled overseas about spiritual issues, I counseled another about relationship or work problems. One of the big things I learned from helping people through work and relationship problems is that our relationships--that's every relationship we have--can build us up or tear us down. With a deployment, if we have trouble with our loved ones at home before we go overseas, the problems can follow us and even get worse while we're gone. The relationships we have with our coworkers can help or hurt our experience on the job, at home or overseas like nothing else. Having or making friends on the deployment and at home can also help or hinder our quality of life, because having friends determines whether or not we have others who can share our burdens and help us when we get discouraged, as everyone does at some point.

Our actions and attitudes can and do determine the quality of our relationships. I found that in many cases, the relationship problems people faced were ones that could have been avoided through better attitudes, as well as a solid commitment to and investment in the relationship, either on their part or on the part of someone else. Healthy relationships start at the very beginning. Relationships that start on the wrong foot, whether they were started for the wrong reasons or with the wrong attitudes, tend to end badly. Starting relationships for selfish reasons or in ways that disrespect the other person in some way sets us up for problems later. We also create problems when we take others for granted or disregard their feelings or value for the sake of our own. Many relationship problems are caused when someone thinks only of their own feelings, desires, or perspective on a situation, and either will not or cannot put others first. For any relationship to succeed, be it a friendship, romance or work relationship, we have to learn to put others first and learn to be forgiving when they hurt us. Adopting a forgiving attitude can often take a relationship that is on the verge of failure and turn it into a healthy and successful relationship.

Seek professional help for problems before they become crises. One of the oddities Chaplains face in our job is that people will often come to our offices for help only after their problems have turned into a major crisis, rather than get help so that things won't reach their worst. I think some avoid talking to Chaplains because they think we'll preach at them and not offer practical advice. The reality is the only time someone's going to hear me preach is when they come to a worship service where I'm the speaker. The notion that someone has to be religious to talk to a Chaplain, or that Chaplains don't have practical advice for real-world problems, is an example of ideas that are conventional wisdom even though they're untrue. Far more than I like, I end up helping people who have bought into popular ideas about how to deal with problems that, from a professional perspective, are really bad. When that happens, I have to clarify that the popular assumptions they were looking to for help are actually unhelpful and in some cases go against proven solutions. Rather than wait to get help when things reach their worst, and instead of leaning on conventional wisdom, it's smart to seek out help when things are still manageable. With the right help, problems are less likely to become crises, and bad ideas are more likely to be avoided.

Get to know your Chaplain Corps team and DPH. The SCANG Chaplain Corps is here to serve everyone, regardless of their faith, and has access to resources that could prevent your problems from becoming crises. The better we get to know you, the more likely we'll be to be able to recommend resources or courses of action that can help. Stop by our office in the wing headquarters building to learn more about the resources we have available. If you're dealing with issues where you'd like outside advice, feel free to contact the Chaplain Corps Office at 803-647-8265 or Director of Psychological Health (DPH) at 803-647-8085 for more information about the help we can provide.

Attend a Strong Bonds Relationship Skills Training Event.
If you would like help improving your relationship skills, you can sign up to attend one of the upcoming Strong Bonds retreats. Please mark your calendars for the following upcoming training events: Strong Bonds for Families from 29-31 July; Strong Bonds for Singles from 26-28 July; Strong Bonds for Married Couples from 23-25 September. For more information or to register to attend, please call Terry DeLille, Airman & Family Readiness Program Manager at 803-647-8089 or email her at: Carolyn.T.DeLille.civ@mail.mil.