Osan chaplains are called to serve

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Dwane Young
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

“In the morning, I met with a family at a gravesite for a funeral, after lunch I counseled a newly married couple who were having problems, and that same evening, I officiated a wedding,” said Capt. Alex Lu, 51st Fighter Wing chaplain. 

Lu described this day that stood out in his mind and captured the emotional rollercoaster sometimes ridden by chaplains as they carry out their day-to-day mission of service.

The 51st FW Chaplain Corps and Religious Ministry professionals provide spiritual and emotional support to service members and the greater Osan AB community. They guide, advocate for, and work to bolster the resilience of their surrounding community.

“We are here, so our Airmen and their families never feel alone,” said Capt. Tarvick Linder, 51st FW chaplain. “As humans we hold things in and carry our problems with us. We want you to share that burden, so we can help you overcome the challenges you face.”

To foster open and free communication, chaplains are bound to an unbreakable 100 percent confidentially. They cannot disclose what a service member or family shares in confidence. 

“I tell everyone that our confidentiality is our superpower,” said Linder. “It supports that sacred trust shared with a chaplain. What you say to us will never leave our lips unless you give us written permission to do so.”

In addition to leading different faith-based services, chaplains and religious ministries professionals work to provide spaces and opportunities to freely practice spirituality.

If a person’s faith practice is not offered on-base, they work to connect them with their community or provide a pathway for them to express their spirituality. 

Spirituality defined by the Air Force and the government is someone’s understanding of their purpose and how that relates to their whole sense of self, enabling the chaplaincy to work with all belief systems. 

As part of their Airman inclusive mission, chaplains can be seen daily engaging troops and visiting units to boost morale and to measure the workplace climate among Airmen.

“When we talk to Airmen, we are looking for stressors in their lives and on the job. We want to know what’s not working to identify possible landmines.” said Lu.

Constant interaction between Airmen and the chaplains allows them to identify gaps and to notify leadership of any urgent problem or unreported issue with a unit.

“We speak to Airmen every day, so we’re uniquely positioned to advocate for them on moral, ethical and quality-of-life issues,” said Lu.

When asked why they serve, Osan chaplains refer to their job as their calling. They feel they were chosen by their higher power to serve their communities. They acknowledge their job requires sacrifices and at times can take an emotional toll, but they feel they are exactly where they are needed.

“Serving as a chaplain was a calling that I fought, but eventually became too loud to ignore,” said Linder. “We are able to help people in a dedicated way because this isn’t something we want to do, this is something we are meant to do.”