NEWS | Feb. 29, 2012

They've got it 'covered'

By Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer Hudson Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Navy chaplains minister to more than 100 different faith groups officially recognized by the U.S. Navy. Derived from a French legend, the term "chaplain" represents a blanket or cover -- and symbolizes covering all faiths and religious practices.

At All Saint's Chapel at Joint Base Charleston - Weapons Station, Navy chaplains assigned to the 628th Air Base Wing, provide religious support and counseling services as well as a safe and comfortable environment for all service members to practice their own faith during war and peacetime operations.

"Our mission is to facilitate, provide, care and advise," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rob Heckathorne, 628th ABW chaplain.

Heckathorne served as a civilian pastor for 21 years before entering the service. Unlike civilian pastors who are limited to one faith group, military chaplains work with people from many different beliefs.

"We facilitate the opportunity for worship and provide a safe environment for people to express their religious beliefs regardless of their practice," said Heckathorne. "We represent a command during ceremonial events and advise commanders on pending issues. We also provide a number of different programs that can help build camaraderie or teamwork in a work place."

Chaplains also provide various programs and retreats such as the Chaplains Religious Enrichment Program.

"Being able to offer a variety of different services is essential to our daily operation," said Chief Petty Officer Stephen Walz, a religious programs specialist at All Saint's Chapel. "Chaplains offer counseling, a safe sanctuary and guidance whether it is spiritual or personal. The chaplains are here for the well being of each and every service member.

"The services that chaplains provide are critical," Walz continued. "To be able to practice your religion is a big part of everyday life and to be able to minister to all the different faiths is a big deal. If a person is not able to practice their own personal beliefs, that can manifest into a much bigger problem; it can begin to affect a person's morale which can affect their job performance or the way they treat their loved ones or children. It plays a big role in the overall readiness of a service member. No religion or practice goes ignored here and I am proud to be part of it all."

Chaplains also assume the role as an advisor to a commanding officer, providing insights on particular trends, morale or moral issues within a command.

"We can advise the commander to hold training to help stop problems before they get out of hand," Heckathorne said.

"It is important to get out and about and interact with Sailors and the community and find out what is going on to see if I can help," Heckathorne said. "Whether it is spiritual guidance or just to listen, I am here for our service members. Part of our caring aspect is being able to provide counseling or being a gateway to offer outside resources. Being able to aide a person in need is a very rewarding part of my job."

"Being able to make a difference in someone's life, no matter how small, is something I am committed to doing and I get a sensational amount of satisfaction from it," said Navy Lt. John Quay, 628th ABW chaplain. "Just knowing I was able to help build up a person's confidence or help them understand a situation better and not give up is up-lifting for me. This is what I am here to do - this is what I live for."

All Saint's Chapel holds Sunday services at the following times: Catholic services at 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. and Protestant services at 10 a.m.

The Good Shepherd Chapel offers Latter Day Saints services on Wednesdays at 9 a.m.
Service members and families interested in practicing a different religion are asked to see staff members at All Saint's Chapel for assistance.

For a complete listing of services available at JB Charleston - Air Base, go to http://www.charleston.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=15749.