News – A rabbi, a priest and a pastor – DVIDS

Posted By on August 22, 2021

AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates A rabbi, a priest and a pastor walk in to your office What sounds like the opening of a good joke, is the unique reality of the service members who are deployed to this Southwest Asia base.

With countless service members deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base, it is a challenge to tend to everyones likes and needs and ensure mission readiness across the board.

Of course the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing provides a large variety of food, fitness and entertainment options to fit anyones lifestyle. But what about their spiritual needs?

Its relatively common to find a catholic priest and a protestant pastor on any given deployment. However, with only twenty rabbis in the U.S. Air Force, nine of which are on active duty status, ADABs chaplain corps team is a one-of-a-kind combination of all three.

The fact that we have three types of services offered weekly (Protestant/Catholic/Jewish) and we are able to accommodate so many service members is quite unique, stated Chaplain (Maj.) Tony Repic, wing chaplain and pastor, 380 AEW, who leads the team of six for the base.

In fact, its so unique, that Ch. (Capt.) Saul Rappeport, who is the wings rabbi, mentioned it had been years since an Air Force rabbi has deployed, and that no other deployed location is able to provide these three denominations like ADAB is doing today.

Having a diverse chapel team is more efficient and better suited to fit the needs of almost everyone looking for spiritual support while away from home.

Ch. (Maj.) Thomas Duston, deputy wing chaplain and priest, 380 AEW, explained how chaplains not only provide worship services for their primary denomination, but are also trained to lend support as needs arise regardless of faith. When they are unable to provide the necessary support, can refer members to other local religious organizations if they exist.

The chaplain corps is tasked with providing the services we can, and providing for access to services that we cannot provide, Duston stated.

ADABs small chapel, known locally as Seven Sands Chapel, is designed to accommodate a variety of denominations and the chapel team uses this to their advantage to create the perfect situation when it comes to supporting the community.

Religious Affairs Airmen, who were previously referred to as chaplains assistants, and who comprise the enlisted side of the team, can convert the chapel in a matter of moments for any worship service, religious holiday, or faith-based event with a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi or a Protestant pastor throughout the week.

To allow chaplains to conduct spiritual counseling, religious worship services and invocations, RAA absorb most of the behind the scenes administrative duties that keep the chapel team running smoothly, stated Master Sgt. Earl Scott, chapel office superintendent, 380 AEW.

Apart from the few places, like the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo., rarely do chaplain teams exist with such religious diversity.

As an RAA, this experience has been key to learning more about multiple recognized faith groups, and has helped me develop a better understanding of how to accommodate more Airmens spiritual needs, said Staff Sgt. Vincent Hyatt, RAA, 380 AEW.

Ch. (Capt.) Paul Walker, who is also a pastor at ADAB, emphasized the vital role of the RAAs when it comes to a multi-denominational deployed team.

Not only do the RAAs transition the sanctuary, but they also record and post every service to the Chapel YouTube channel so that any Airman so that was not able to attend in-person, will still have the opportunity to do so. he said.

Recognizing the unique characteristics of their team at ADAB, the staff found a way to piggyback off one of their COVID-19 mitigation measures and expand their teams abilities around the U.S. Air Force Central Command area of responsibility.

Several times during the pandemic, the chapel was not able to support in-person worship services, explained Repic, so they decided to record and even livestream their services.

This advantage gave us the ability to share all the services with our community, Repic said, and even offer the Jewish services to all of AFCENT locations, giving everyone the ability to have access to a military chaplain (Rabbi).

The clashing of religions goes back as far as any history book, yet ADABs chapel corps team sets a new example for the world of mutual tolerance and support.

Rappeport closed out by exclaiming, God Bless America Where else do I get to conduct Hanukkah services where the Priest is reciting Christmas liturgy in the adjacent room? For centuries people have killed each other over theology, now we help each other out and are teammates, wingmen, colleagues and friends. I cannot think of a greater accomplishment and could not be prouder to be a part of this institution.

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News - A rabbi, a priest and a pastor - DVIDS

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