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'A pastor to some, a chaplain to all'

Chaplain (Capt.) J. Stephen Hicks leads Chapel Service during the December Unit Training Assembly.

Chaplain (Capt.) J. Stephen Hicks leads Chapel Service during the December Unit Training Assembly.

MCCONNELL AFB, Kan. -- It is one of the smallest offices in the 931st Air Refueling Group. Yet it has been one of the Group's biggest supporters of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.

Chaplain (Capt.) J. Stephen Hicks was deployed in support of OEF when he was attached to the Group late last year. Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Fulton returned just a month ago after a six month deployment to Iraq. Their predecessor, Chaplain (Col.) Charles Peters, started the post-9/11 trend as far back as 2002.

But the deployment dust is finally starting to settle. Including its newer assistant, Senior Airman Michael Abbey, the Chaplain's Office will be manned three strong by the January Unit Training Assembly.

Chaplain Hicks has been keeping the faith and administrative fired burning in Chap. Fulton's absence and is looking forward to more continuity.

Chaplains like to get out and visit people, he said, and Fulton's return will hopefully bring more face time with Group members.

Capt. Hicks is quick to point out that although he and Lt. Col. Fulton are Protestant chaplains their interaction with Airmen is not limited to Protestant issues.

Department of Defense chaplains protect the religious freedoms of all servicemembers.

"We have a saying," Chap. Hicks said. "A pastor to some, a chaplain to all."

Any Airmen with any belief system can approach a chaplain with concerns. Still, counseling has been one of the more underused services of his office, Capt. Hicks said. It is a service that comes with a confidentiality guarantee unique to chaplains too.
What is said to a chaplain stays with a chaplain.

"100 percent of what (Airmen) say can't go beyond me," Chap. Hicks said. He and other chaplains only go to Air Force leaders with an Airman's issue if that Airman asks them to.

Ensuring Airmen have opportunities to exercise their religious freedoms is another part of a chaplain's responsibility. Ultimately, the mission takes precedence, Capt. Hicks said, but leaders are highly encouraged to allow Airmen reasonable opportunities to attend chapel services and other religious functions.

The next 931st chapel service is scheduled for Sunday of the February UTA at 7:45 a.m. And now with the deployment dust settled, Hicks said that service will be scheduled for that time for many UTA Sundays to come.