Keeping up the faith

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Anania Tekurio
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
It has been said that behind every great man stands a great woman, the same can be said that behind every great chaplain stands a great chaplain assistant.

Staff Sgt. Shannon Olson, 28th Bomb Wing chaplain assistant, is one of a team of great chaplain assistants stationed at Ellsworth.

Olson began her military career in a munitions squadron running administrative operations. It was through both her experiences in that administrative role and her time as a victim advocate that she recognized her natural skill set in helping and dealing with people one on one.

"I was doing well in [administration] but I knew that I could be doing more and I wanted to better serve the Air Force," said Olson. "So I decided to start looking to retrain into a different career field."

Olson searched the retraining lists for careers where she felt she could work to her full potential. Her considerations included careers in weather, air traffic control, legal, pharmaceuticals or the Chaplain Corps.

"I didn't know much about the Chaplain Corps," said Olson. "But after interviewing with all the other potential options, I knew that I only wanted to retrain as a chaplain assistant."

Many advised her not to put all her eggs in one basket by just listing one career field for retraining, however, Olson was convinced that being a Chaplain Assistant was the only thing she wanted to do and she believed she would get that opportunity.

"Literally, the day I became eligible to retrain I applied for the chaplain assistant job," Olson said, "I didn't bother with thinking I wasn't going to get it - I had great faith it was for me."

She was granted the opportunity to join the Chaplain Corps as a chaplain assistant and attended technical school in 2012.

"I love this job - I get to establish relationships with so many people and help guide them in the right direction while supporting the Chaplains," said Olson. "We are the eyes and ears of the Chaplains - we provide care, intervention and resources to the Chaplains and base community."

As a chaplain assistant, Olson facilitates the free exercise of religion for Airmen, their families and other authorized personnel. Chaplain assistants are vital to providing spiritual care and are exempt from performing additional duties or details that impede ministry accomplishment.

For Olson, both her early years in the Air Force and her whole retraining experience intensified her belief that the only thing holding a person back in the capacity he wants to serve is himself.

"If there is something you want, have faith in yourself and know that it is only you that can make it happen," concluded Olson.