Ramstein AB, Germany --
Flying with an aircrew on an operational mission is not a task most people associate with when thinking about a military chaplain.
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Ronald Apollo, a chaplain with the 315th Airlift Wing, calls it “ministry of presence” and he sees this as the bedrock of what an Air Force chaplain is all about.
“People should know who their chaplain is and feel comfortable coming to them if a crisis should arise,” said Chaplain Apollo. “As a chaplain, I need to be where the people are,” he said.
Chaplain Apollo was recently invited on a dual Aeromedical Evacuation and passenger movement mission to Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
“I invited him to come on the mission so he could see first hand the dynamics of what we do and to see the stress that we go through,” said Chief Master Sgt. Reggie Godbolt, loadmaster superintendent for the 300th Airlift Squadron. “You just never know when someone might have something going on personally in their lives,” he added. “I think it is important to have him here getting to know our people in their work environment.“
Elaborating on the importance of having the chaplain’s “ministry of presence” around, the chief continued, “to see how the crew bonds and to see what we do is important,” he said. “The crew feels an attachment to the chaplain by getting to know him personally. It means a lot to us knowing that he’s here supporting what we do.”
During the mission the chaplain did more than just talk to the crew, he was put to work. “I helped carry bags, participated in a training scenario, I learned about their mission and just did whatever they needed me to do,” Apollo said. “Those who I didn’t know, really opened up to me on this mission.”
Master Sgt. Marguerite Hellwich, a medical technician with the 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, had the opportunity to meet Chaplain Apollo for the first time on the mission. “We talked about what we do in the civilian world and I explained our mission to him,” she said. “I think it is important to fly with our chaplain so he understands how much we actually rely on his support.”
According to Chaplain Apollo, service members are feeling the stress and pressure of budget cuts and the continuance of being asked to do more with less, and sometimes Airmen, “just need to have someone to talk to.”
But, when he reflected on the importance of flying on a mission with the Airmen he serves, Chaplain Apollo simply said, “this is about getting to know our people and what they do,” he said. “In my faith tradition, Jesus went were the people were, and because of this, people started to follow him.”