Chaplains develop skillset

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jennifer Zima
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs

Chaplains from the 501st Combat Support Wing hosted the Young Adult Summit to develop their skillsets by learning to work with young Airmen in Cambridge, England, April 30, 2019.

Capt. (Ch) Brendan Mbagwu, 501st CSW chaplain, collaborated with religious leaders associated with the U.S. Air Force, Cambridge University, RAF U.K. chaplains and visiting U.S. chaplains.

Mbagwu immigrated to the United States from Nigeria in 2004. He enlisted in the Air Force in 2014 to spiritually serve those who serve the United States. He is now a chaplain at RAF Alconbury, where his passion is to reach out to young Airmen, many of whom are new to the service and away from their homes and loved ones for the first time.

It was during Basic Military Training that Mbagwu realized the importance of reaching out to young men and women in the service, “They are really seeking for something, they’re seeking for a spiritual life and to belong to something. So what I do more is to provide that option for them, to guide them, to help them in their search, in their question of life.”

 It is the combination of his experience, travel, communication skills and empathy that allow Mbagwu to bring perspective to those who reach out to him and learn from those who he counsels during the best and worst of times.

“That’s what I see in the ministry, one has to be everything to every person. When I go to visitation, I’m trying to understand what this young person needs. Our engagement in the unit will also help them to come to the chapel for whatever we may provide for them.”

Through his experience, Mbagwu relayed what he has noticed on many occasions, “There’s a loss of sense of belonging, ‘where do I really belong?’ That’s the focus of the chapel, to provide an environment for young Airmen to really belong to something, to help them articulate what are their needs according to their spiritual fitness.”

Maj. (Ch) Joshua Payne, 501st CSW deputy wing chaplain, praised the eagerness and expertise that Mbagwu brings to the base to combat loneliness. “When our new chief of chaplains rolled out his initiatives, Father Brenden took action immediately. He was eager to make our chief of chaplain’s desire reality, because of the impact it has on the Airmen that he serves,” said Payne.

Mbagwu went into action by hosting dorm dinners that allow young Airmen to know that they are part of a community that cares, so that they can combat loneliness when they are homesick.

It is from this summit that Mbagwu shared with his colleague new ideas from institutions like Cambridge and Oxford Universities, as well as the American and British Air Forces, to further counsel and encourage resilience for young Airmen. The summit provided opportunities to answer questions such as what motivates young adults to seek spiritual guidance from the base chapel and how parishes facilitate spiritual affirmation for wider communities.

“Our goal is to find the best practices we can find that can help us launch our own program here at Alconbury,” said Mbagwu.

The lessons in resilience are of utmost value to the Airmen of the 501st and the local communities.

Mbagwu said it best, “We’re providing options for the Airmen to really process what he or she is going through and then help them understand the meaning of life, the meaning of human nature, the meaning of being responsible, and responsive to whatever is coming to them. My hope is to be there to guide, see things from another perspective, so they can make choices in their lives.”