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151 ARW chaplains 'practice' as well as 'preach'

SALT LAKE CITY -- It has been said in jest that many religious clergy are people who would rather preach than practice. Through their volunteer deployments in direct support of the Global War on Terrorism, two of our wing's chaplains and a chaplain assistant have, in fact, been demonstrating the exact opposite. Chaplains Lt. Col. Bruce Brewer, Lt. Col. Cless Young and chaplain assistant Staff Sgt. D.J. Butterfield have been making a difference, and in a huge way.

Chaplain Brewer recently completed over four months of service at Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. While there, Chaplain Brewer served as the wing chaplain for the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing--a busy job which included looking out for Air Force, Army and civilian personnel. He was there during the entire time that many of our own 151st Air Refueling Wing Airmen were deployed to Kyrgyzstan from May through August. And he stayed on for weeks after.

"It was extremely busy, but extremely rewarding," said Chaplain Brewer about his experience.

In addition to a big workload which included visiting many units on base, overseeing hundreds of religious services and providing personal counseling, Chaplain Brewer became very involved with providing aid to the local nationals. He immediately joined forces with the Manas Air Base Outreach Society, and helped to coordinate the delivery of food, clothing, toys, wheelchairs and playground equipment which were loaded and flown to Kyrgyzstan by Utah Air National Guard ground personnel and aircrews. A large part of these goods were collected by an Ogden-area boy scout, Benjamin Cragun (son of 191st Air Refueling Squadron pilot, Lt. Col. Mike Cragun). All of the goods were donated from people in Utah.

Remarkably, Chaplain Brewer's help with the distribution of these generous gifts from the "Beehive State" was one of many facets of his humanitarian work. As the weeks went by, he harnessed the manpower of more than 500 volunteer Airmen who took part in service projects at local orphanages. By the time he finished his assignment, he helped raise over $27,000 in donations which have been used to improve the lives of the Kyrgyzstani people. Col. Robert Athan, 376th AEW vice wing commander, described Chaplain Brewer as an "innovative leader" and one who "zealously motivated the troops."

In contrast to Chaplain Brewer's vigorous work at a deployed location, Chaplain Cless Young has been participating in a very different kind of ministry, but one of staggering importance: he is serving for over three and a half months as a hospital chaplain at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. If the name "Landstuhl" does not ring a bell, the fact that it is the main facility that treats the war casualties coming directly from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan should. 

"We work closely with those who have suffered sometimes devastating physical and emotional wounds," said Chaplain Young. "Every day here is the opportunity to provide real ministry."

While Chaplain Young participates in many challenging and often life-changing scenarios, perhaps one of the most poignant is his work with the families of the wounded.

"Most memorable are the times when I meet with the families of Soldiers who have come here from downrange and are unconscious," he said. "I accompany the families while they get the medical briefing from the doctors, and then go with the families into the Intensive Care Unit for their first meeting with their injured loved one."

At other times, Chaplain Young faces the challenge of providing counseling and encouragement to those who, after losing limbs or suffering severe burns, may be looking at a very different future.

All of this has to be tough duty, without a doubt. But Chaplain Young expresses gratitude for the opportunity and looks at his assignment as an honor.

"As Guardsmen and Reservists, we are an integral part of the defense of our country," he said. "This has given me a chance to function as a contributor in a real-life military environment, and to care for those who have in some cases, sacrificed their health and limbs in defense of our freedoms."

Last but certainly not least, SSgt Butterfield is also serving in Germany. His unique assignment is at Ramstein Air Base, not far from Chaplain Young at LRMC. He works side-by-side with a full-time military chaplain, meeting the incoming flights which carry the war casualties out of the theater of war and into Germany for immediate medical attention at LRMC. His duties continue non-stop, seven days a week, with the responsibility to cover at least three incoming flights per day. His initial contact with the brave men and women who have been injured in war and flown to safety is, without doubt, a vital and important responsibility. He also interacts with the recovering Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen who have been stabilized and discharged from Landstuhl, ready to fly home to the United States.

Thanks goes out to all three of these members of the Utah ANG chaplain staff for voluntarily supporting the war effort for months at a time, in every case leaving behind families and friends in the name of worldwide freedom and stability. Through their service, they have truly put new meaning to the phrase "God and country."