MAFB, Chapel serves base, community for 70 years

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. R.J. Biermann
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Since 1942, Malmstrom Air Force Base's Chaplain Corps has been focused on serving Airmen, their families, retirees and civilians across the base.

Today, more than 70 years later, the chapel's mission has evolved to, "Always ready with faith, hope and charity." At the helm of the chapel is Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Clyde Dyson, the 341st Missile Wing command chaplain.

Dyson has been an Air Force chaplain for 17 years serving at nine bases and is scheduled to depart this fall. He will be replaced by Chaplain (Maj.) Mark Roberts who is currently serving as deputy wing chaplain for the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.

"This isn't just my occupation, it's my vocation," said Dyson. "That's why I'm a chaplain - I love what I do. We don't have a chapel for us; we have a chapel for you. The chapel exists because of you. We're here to help you build relationships and prevent certain acts caused by stress and conflict."

According to Dyson, the chapel's mission is intertwined with wing leadership's focus for it - nurture, train and lead.

"The willingness of wing leadership to support the chapel ministries in support of our Airmen has been A-plus," Dyson said. "I couldn't have asked for better leadership here."
According to Dyson, the act of nurturing is quite simple.

"Through our faith we nurture Airmen and the base through the free exercise of religion," Dyson said. "We constitutionally watch out for that. We perform [religious services] for those represented by the chapel. We provide for those not of our faith."

Additionally, if an individual visits the chapel and their faith group is not represented; the chapel staff will assistant them to meet the spiritual needs of the individual or will work to find an off-base place of worship for them. Some groups not currently represented at the chapel include Buddhists, Jews, Mormons, Greek Orthodox, Muslims, Atheists, Humanists and others. The chapel may not have an individual's faith represented but staff members are always available to provide spiritual support.

The chapel currently employs six active duty chaplains and an Air Force Reserve chaplain, representing the Protestant and Catholic faith groups. These chaplains are supported by three active duty chaplain's assistants and a Reserve chaplain's assistant, as well as a chapel secretary. Five contractors act as program coordinators supporting many of the other chapel functions.

The chapel staff also nurtures Malmstrom's 3,000 Airmen through battlefield circulation at the Airman's Ministry Center.

"Battlefield circulation is the goal to visit every unit once a week," Dyson said. "We've strategically given every chaplain one area of responsibility. During these visits we establish and build wholesome relationships."

At the Airman's Ministry Center or "The Detour," airmen basics through senior airmen can meet for activities and entertainment or to relax. No worship services are held here.

"We've tripled attendance at The Detour from 120 to nearly 325 a month," Dyson said. "A squadron may sponsor an Airman's night and provide food and drinks. We provide the place and entertainment. It has been very successful. The Detour has also partnered with Outdoor Recreation to host one to two events a month. That's 12 events a year. Outdoor Recreation has the equipment. We bring the Airmen and sponsor the event. It all builds relationships.

"The Detour is centered around the dorms," he said. "Many Airmen won't come to visit us at the Chapel so we have this located in the heart of where they live."

The chapel was named the AFGSC and AF 2012 Best Medium Chapel out of 40 bases. Dyson claims that the award is a testament to the chapel staff's battlefield circulation program, the Airman's Ministry Center and their attention to meeting faith needs.

"This staff perseveres," Dyson said. "The perseverance and teamwork through long hours, days, and months to accomplish this mission, in the face of adversity, is unmatched."

Chaplains train through confidential counseling services, providing a duty chaplain in emergency situations.

"We provide a 'listening ear,'" Dyson said. "Our counseling sessions are totally confidential."
Like many other Air Force chapels, Malmstrom's chapel staff takes an active role in its community.

"We hold a bi-annual clergy day where we host all local clergy here," Dyson said. "During this event, we spend half a day touring the base, we present a chapel mission brief and tell them we want to partner with them because they also serve our Airmen."

Chaplains participate in various charities, veteran's organizations, and church and school events - all to enhance and strengthen partnerships.

Catholic mass is held daily at 11:15 a.m., Saturdays at 5 p.m. and Sundays at 9 a.m. Reconciliation is held Saturdays at 4 p.m. and Sunday through Friday by appointment only. For information about Religious Education and bible study opportunities, call 731-4235.

Protestant services are held Sundays at 11:15 a.m. Call 731-3258 for more information about Religious Education and bible study opportunities.

The Detour is open Monday through Friday from 6 to 10 p.m. and Saturdays from 3 to 10 p.m.

The chapel is available to all active duty service members and their dependents, retirees, and civilian personnel with a valid identification card. The chapel staff may sometimes sponsor civilian clergy or religious group leaders. Individuals with no military affiliation, who wish to worship at the chapel, must have an individual with a valid identification card sponsor them on base. To contact the after-hours chaplain, call Command Post at 731-3801. No matter a person's spiritual standing a chaplain is always available to provide support.

The chapel is located at 315 72nd Street North, Malmstrom AFB, Mont., 59402.