MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. --
Like the base gym supports the physical wellness of Airmen and their families, the base chapel supports their spiritual wellness.
The Malmstrom Chapel offers recurring services including Catholic and Protestant worship services, confession and invocation for official functions. They also offer a women’s bible study, a children’s Awana bible school that begins Oct. 13 and annual retreats for couples and singles.
“The goal [of the retreats] is to help these Airmen get away from the daily stresses of their work,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Dominic Smyth, 341st Missile Wing. “It’s something to just help people build healthy relationships, whether couples or singles, just helping them be healthy overall.”
Beyond its religious offerings and retreats, chaplains and chaplain assistants are available to help people through difficult times through individual counseling.
Airmen and their families have a right to confidential and privileged communication. In fact, for a chaplain or chaplain assistant to share anything it takes written, informed consent in a signed document that outlines what aspects and to whom that information is allowed to be shared.
“They have the freedom to tell us anything,” Tech. Sgt. Kelly Mays, 341st MW chaplain assistant said. “It protects the individuals.”
One thing that people might not know is that no one has to believe in a specific religion or be religious at all to speak to and receive help from a chaplain. Also, if the chaplains can’t help with a particular situation or provide a specific religious service, they connect the individual with someone who can.
“We are there to help them realize the resources that are in place to protect them, to help them,” Smyth said. “At the end of the day, if they need greater mental health attention, then we want to encourage that person to make use of the resources. Life is a value and we want to make sure we protect that as much as possible.”
If someone is experiencing thoughts of suicide, chaplains and their assistants work as a team and use the ACE concept. The acronym stands for ask, care, escort.
One of the greatest protective factors against suicide is fostering connection with other people and sometimes that can mean asking for help when you need it.
“Sometimes we stand in our own way without realizing it, especially as Airmen,” Mays said. “The first obstacle is yourself when you need to seek help”
Because chaplains and chaplain assistants listen to and help people through difficult or traumatic experiences, it is critical for them to care for themselves and each other as much as the rest of the Airmen and families they care for.
“One of those challenges that we have is definitely self-care,” Mays said. “I’m gauging to make sure that my Airmen don’t get overwhelmed and when they do, if they can’t acknowledge it themselves, I acknowledge it for them so that they can seek those resources that they need, because hearing some of these situations is hard.”
“Love for our Airmen is what I think brought me to the chapel corps,” Smyth said. “Unconditional love: it’s hard, it can be challenging, but I love my job.”
To speak to a chaplain or chaplain assistant, call 406-731-3721. For more information about the Malmstrom Air Force Base Chapel and a list of religious services and times, visit www.malmstrom.af.mil/units/341st-Missile-Wing/Chapel.