JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska, –
This month, Chin’an JBER highlights the Religious Support Teams (RST), JBER Religious Operations Center (JROC), and True North members and counselors at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, March 2021.
In addition to providing religious support to military and civilian Soldiers and Airmen and their dependents, RSTs and the JROC offer myriad other services. Counseling, marriage and family therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing to treat people suffering from trauma, suicide-intervention classes and confidential communication are some of those services.
Chaplains are also non-mandatory reporters, so telling them about an experience does not automatically generate a report or investigation.
“Whatever issues you may have, you can come and talk to us and we will try to help you or point you in the right direction,” said U.S. Air Force Chaplain Lt. Col. Erik Nelson, the JBER and 673d Air Base Wing senior chaplain. “Whether it's job-related stress, emotional, personal or religious issues – we are here to listen.”
Some chaplains and RSTs are embedded within a unit to make them more available to high-risk groups as part of True North – an initiative to increase the resilience of service members and their families and support their overall well-being.
“The best part of my job is getting to interact with so many different Airmen from so many different backgrounds – something no civilian pastor, rabbi, imam, etc. would ever get to do on the same scale as a military chaplain,” said U.S. Air Force Chaplain Capt. John Reutemann, a 673d ABW chaplain embedded with the 673d Mission Support Group through True North. “Once those [service members] realize you’re not there to convert them or judge them, they let you into their lives in a way that has the potential of positively affecting not just them and their families, but indeed the overall mission of the U.S. military.”
True North also embeds mental health and medical professionals within a unit, a departure from typical clinical care. Providers work to get to know their service members in their work environments, build relationships, and make themselves available to provide counseling to help Airmen and Soldiers be the best they can be while knocking down some of the stigma around mental health and mental wellness/hygiene.
“It is an honor and privilege to work with a team whose main goal is helping people be their best,” said Kathy King, a True North mental health technician embedded with the 673d Mission Support Group. “Moving forward, the hope is to continue working toward breaking down the negative stigmatism associated with seeking out help and support from mental health providers. Being a veteran, I am well aware it has been a long time in coming for putting mental health in the forefront. But it is coming and our team at True North will continue to bring it.”
U.S. Air Force Col. Kirsten Aguilar, JBER and 673d ABW commander, proclaimed 2021 a year for Chin’an JBER, using the Dena’ina language word for “thank you” to express gratitude to Native Alaskans for hosting the military installation on their traditional lands and to thank the personnel who work tirelessly to serve the JBER community. To express your appreciation to these personnel, please submit a comment via the ICE link: https://ice.disa.mil/index.cfm?fa=card&sp=144947