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September Chaplain's Reflection

Lt. Col. Brian Bohlman, 169th Fighter Wing Chaplain at McEntire JNGB, S.C., February 1, 2012.
(National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

Lt. Col. Brian Bohlman, 169th Fighter Wing Chaplain at McEntire JNGB, S.C., February 1, 2012. (National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
Broken Planes and Broken People: A Reflection on Spiritual Maintenance


"It is a fact that in the right formation, the lifting power of many wings can achieve twice the distance of any bird flying above." -Author Unknown


If you've ever been to the wing commander's morning "standup" meeting, you are aware of the different topics that are always briefed to our leadership. Over the last 14 years of attending these meetings, I've paid particular attention to the briefing slides that list the number of sorties flown and cancelled, number of jets not mission capable or undergoing heavy maintenance, such as phase, and aircraft parts on order with the estimated delivery dates.

In a robust flying unit like the 169th Fighter Wing, we all know the importance of statistics regarding our flying hours, mission capable rates and maintenance down time. The Swamp Fox Semper Primus reputation, along with our demanding state and federal missions, require that we capitalize on our ability to fly, fight, and win! As a result, we fly our planes constantly to meet and exceed the mission, and in doing so, our planes eventually break.

So what happens when a plane breaks or has reached the number of hours for scheduled maintenance? The answer is simple...we must send the plane in for maintenance until it is ready to fly again. While scheduled maintenance does impact our mission capable rate, this downtime is required in order to extend the overall life of the aircraft.

So here's my question to each Swamp Fox: Should we treat ourselves and other wingmen any differently than our jets when we break down and require some "downtime" in our personal, relational or professional life? Just like a jet might need an engine replacement, each Airman needs to take time to maintain their mental, social, spiritual and physical "engine". This will help them meet the demands of balancing military service with other commitments, such as family, school and civilian employment.

Every Swamp Fox needs to understand their own maintenance cycle and take the time to order "parts" that will keep them resilient for our demanding operations tempo. I haven't found a store yet that sells faith, hope, joy or peace on its shelves. However, those qualities can be discovered or uncovered during our "downtime" for personal maintenance or self-care.

The SCANG Chaplain Corps exists to provide you "spiritual maintenance" during the times that you are broken or spent from years without practicing good self-care or routine maintenance. The Chaplain Corps is a key part of the SCANG Wingman Resiliency Program which is designed to help connect you and your family with a vast array of resources. Our Strong Bonds retreats for Singles, Couples and Families are a great way to "tune up" your relationships with loved ones.

In closing, please remember this: Planes break after hours of flying and so do people. There are a multitude of resources to help you when you are broken. The strong wingman always seeks help when needed. Every Swamp Fox is a valuable part of the McEntire family, so do the right thing and practice good self-care to stay fit for the long fight!

Semper Primus