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  • SU Alum is Chaplain Candidate at US Air Force Academy

    HeatherThe US Air Force Academy is the one place I've always wanted to serve during my time in the chaplain candidate program. When I joined the military three and a half years ago, I knew I was called by God to serve the men and women who protect our country. I absolutely love the military and the sacred trust it has placed in me to provide for their religious and spiritual needs. At the Academy, my job is to provide religious and spiritual support for cadets in the class of 2016 who are going through their Basic Cadet Training (lovingly referred to as "Beast" and is appropriately named). Thus far I have taught classes to the new cadets, or "Doolies," on Air Force core values and religious respect training, instructed the new faculty members on their unique role within the academy, preached and led a service in the Cadet Chapel, marched 5 miles with them out to Jack's Valley for their field training, and done countless hours of visitation. The basic cadets here are mostly right out of high school and for many, this is their first major life experience away from home. To put it lightly, they were in for a shock! Basic freedoms that you and I take for granted every day, such as talking when we want, looking at our food, and wearing clothes of our choosing are stripped away, and a strict code of military discipline and regimented activities replaces them.

    It has truly been a blessing to serve these cadets and upper class cadre. Their willingness to sacrifice for the greater good is inspiring. I have had several counseling sessions with cadets during their time in the cadet clinic that have truly been sacred. As a chaplain candidate I am in a unique position to offer spiritual support to these young men and women, and also to be there cheering them on as they complete their grueling tasks. One of the most important aspects of our mission is the ministry of presence chaplains can provide. By simply being present to the cadets when they are in the midst of utter chaos, we provide them with a brief respite, a quick prayer, or a pat on the back, so they can continue with the rest of their day. My favorite times have been the ones outside the chapel where I offer an encouraging word to a cadet who looks to be on the brink of tears, and to be that safe person they know they can trust with anything. The cadre are there to correct their every minute mistake, and when the chaplains are around, the basic cadets know they will have someone smile at them. You'd be amazed how far something so simple can go.

    Heather Thomason, '11

    "The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire."

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    Linda Ferguson

    Posted on Wednesday, July 18, 2012
    Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Heather. I feel connected to you in a new way, since I am now completing my 4th unit of CPE, serving our veterans at the VA as a chaplain. I'll be there for another year as a Chaplain Fellow in Addictions Treatment. I love the work!
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