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Learning to lean on the chaplain corps

Chap. (Capt.) Greg Lawrence, 28th Bomb Wing chaplain, left, talks with Airman Sadie Colbert, 28th Bomb Wing photojournalist, at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Jan. 8, 2016. Personnel can use the chaplain corps to request confidential counseling, allowing Airmen to feel secure when discussing sensitive information. To contact the base Chapel Office, call (605) 385-1598. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Sadie Colbert/Released)

Chap. (Capt.) Greg Lawrence, 28th Bomb Wing chaplain, left, talks with Airman Sadie Colbert, 28th Bomb Wing photojournalist, at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Jan. 8, 2016. Personnel can use the chaplain corps to request confidential counseling, allowing Airmen to feel secure when discussing sensitive information. To contact the base Chapel Office, call (605) 385-1598. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Sadie Colbert/Released)

Chap. (Capt.) Greg Lawrence, 28th Bomb Wing chaplain, has been a chaplain since 2010 and was promoted in 2014 to active duty status. Chaplains provide for an individual’s religious liberties, act as a counselor and provide confidential counseling for personnel and their families. To contact the base Chapel Office, call (605) 385-1598. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Sadie Colbert/Released)

Chap. (Capt.) Greg Lawrence, 28th Bomb Wing chaplain, has been a chaplain since 2010 and was promoted in 2014 to active duty status. Chaplains provide for an individual’s religious liberties, act as a counselor and provide confidential counseling for personnel and their families. To contact the base Chapel Office, call (605) 385-1598. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Sadie Colbert/Released)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- "Lean on me, when you're not strong and I'll be your friend. I'll help you carry on. For it won't be long, til' I'm gonna need somebody to lean on." - Bill Withers

Chaplains are individuals who minister to military members, and their families of all faiths, while they are known for promoting spiritual growth and fulfilment, chaplains can also be there for personnel on a deeper level.

When I was in Air Force technical training, I had to go to a chaplain for a confidential discussion. That is where I learned it is okay to rely on someone else's strength to get you through hard times.

I failed two out of four major writing tests we were given, and I felt my heart sinking inside my chest. I needed to pass this next writing assignment to pass the class. Failure was not an option.

I felt so positive about this next assignment, so I confidently arrived at a building for my interview with an employee there, and to my surprise, the window was blacked out. I began to panic. I knew what happened but I didn't want to face reality. They were gone.

The whole entire office, key to my assignment and passing technical school, had gone on a company strike. After already going through two different interviews for this assignment, a simple photo and one quote separated me from a passing grade to get me through the class. I was livid, and naturally, when I thought everything was over for me, I had an emotional breakdown.

Combined with layers of a terrible social life and zero confidence frosting, that final assignment was the cherry on top of my stress cake; I decided it was time to talk to a chaplain. I knew I needed some help getting through those rough times.
And it paid off because I was able to graduate technical school and I'm now writing this article.

Getting me through, chaplains provided me 100 percent confidentiality, which is available to all Airmen.

"I can't tell you how many times people ask me if I can't tell anyone," said Chap. (Capt.) Greg Lawrence, 28th Bomb Wing chaplain. "The answer is no, I cannot, but [people] want that reassurance."

After speaking with the chaplain, I found myself feeling more inspired to be more successful than what I was. He provided me with several ways to de-stress that I never considered. One was to improve my social life, which I sought out as soon as I arrived at my first base, Ellsworth.

Ellsworth's chaplain corps sponsors Higher Grounds, a "hang out" zone to be used by myself and Airmen who want to get out of the dorms and communicate with each other.

"It's just a marvelous place," Lawrence said. "It's close to the dorms and Airmen can play games and use the TV area. They can also use it to build [friendships]."

Getting out of my comfort zone and utilizing events hosted by Higher Grounds added a motivating twist on my view of life. It also bolstered my confidence, helping me be more productive than I thought I could ever be.

"I think chaplains are here to care for people," Lawrence said. "My cross trumps my bars. I do believe whether you're a one-striper up to a general, the chaplains are here to care for you, encourage you, challenge you and most importantly, be there for you."

Lawrence comments without depending on each other, individuals can find themselves going down a bad road as well.

"It's vitally important for Airmen of all ranks to be able to have someone to talk to," Lawrence said. "We think that just because we get older and get more rank that we don't need any help or encouragement. That mindset ultimately becomes destructive. We all need others that we can go to."

For more information or to request a counseling session, call the base Chapel Office at (605) 385-1598.