After being honored with the best small-chapel award for Air Combat Command two times, it has finally happened. The 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing Chapel has been named the Air Force’s Best Small Chapel of the Year for 2017.
With a long list of accomplishments throughout the year, this team of five — along with several Airmen by Leadership and Example (ABLE) Airmen — has put in the time and effort to care for and strengthen the spiritual pillar of the 70th ISRW’s human weapon system.
Not just at Fort Meade, but at all of the wing’s geographically separated units around the world.
“We are so proud of our chapel team for winning at the Air Force level,” said Col. Ericka Flanigan, 70th ISRW vice commander. “They might be a small team by Air Force definition, but to us, they are doing huge work supporting our very large wing of 6,000 Airmen, plus families.”
Led by Chaplains (Lt. Col.) Jonathan Hurt and (Capt.) Manuel Duarte, the team focuses on caring for warrior, advising leaders and supporting Chaplain Corps caregivers.
“We have some incredible individual personalities and talents here, but the thing that helps us most is that we actually get along with each other and enjoy working together,” Hurt said. “Every person on our team, including our ABLE flight Airmen, is committed to taking care of Airmen and their families.”
For this team, it is all about making sure everyone is included and taken care of.
“People are our passion, and we are confident that, above technology and weaponry, strong people are what makes our military strong,” Hurt said. “With that thought in mind, we are highly motivated and feel a deep sense of purpose as we provide counsel, encouragement, spiritual support and help to our ISR warriors”
In 2017, the 70th ISRW Chapel hosted several family retreats that gave 47 couples and 11 children the rest, relaxation and bonding time they needed.
The feedback received from some of the couples and families was that the weekend together was exactly what they needed to revive and restore their marriages and trelationships with their kids, Hurt said.
“Our teaching encouraged and equipped members to approach marriage and parenting with confidence rather than fear,” he said.
“When a marriage comes in on the brink of divorce and we are able to provide them the coping skills to preserver through life challenges, we have provided them hope,” said Staff Sgt. Marcus McCall, noncommissioned officer in charge of resource management. “This is what makes the chapel special. We are dealers of hope.”
Families are not the only ones that need healing and attention. Single Airmen were fortunate to have over 22 squadron-led events inside the dormitories, all themed and catered, he said.
“We have helped change our communities by providing hope,” he said. “Hope seems to be an abstract word, but it can also be quantitative.
“Every time a dorm resident skips sleeping and [spends time] with other Airmen because of the food we have provided, we, in a small way, have given that Airman hope.”
Throughout the year, the team provided private counsel through 36,600 individual visits. That equals 882 hours invested into 13 joint organizations globally. Not to mention the mentorship given to Air Force Reserve Officer’s Training Corps cadets and fundraisers held to help local schools and families.
To keep the chapel staff members prepared for their mission, they attended events like the Air Force Association symposium, signals intelligence courses and pastoral seminars.
The chapel team never stopped at the status quo for pursuing excellence. In addition to completing training for their chapel duties, Airmen also completed courses to qualify as Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster response coordinators and courses in Applied Suicide Intervention.
Hurt said he is very proud of the team’s accomplishments and looks forward to seeing what they can accomplish next year.