Chaplain: Conversation my job
October 13, 2009
Cannon Connections photo: Argen Duncan Capt. Chaplain Kyle Roehrig jokes with 1st Sgt. Eric Butt during a visit to the Cannon Air Force Base medical group building. Roehrig often drops in on units he's assigned to so he can be visible and supportive.
For an Air Force chaplain, life involves reaching out to many people, some of whom may not share the same faith.
For the chaplain assistant, it’s a matter of handling an array of details to keep everything running to benefit the community.
Capt. Chaplain Kyle Roehrig has served as an Air Force chaplain for six years, after being a United Methodist pastor for seven years. He said his duties vary with the day, week and season.
“I love God, and I love serving God this way,” Roehrig said.
Chaplain assistant Staff Sgt. Xochiquetzal Baldwin has served in her current position for six months, half of it in Iraq.
“Being a chaplain assistant helps me be closer to the community, and it helps me give back to them,” she said.
Baldwin said the job provides an opportunity to see the other side of the Air Force, the times of relaxation, enjoyment and fellowship a chaplain assistant can provide.
As for Roehrig, captain chaplains typically minister to specific units, act as the leader of a parish and run special programs like prayer breakfasts and suicide prevention efforts.
Roehrig is affiliated with the medical group and several separate squadrons. He’s responsible for supporting for those airmen and their dependents, and for being a visible representative of the holy.
“We can be as holy and devout as you can imagine, but if no one ever sees us, we’re falling down on our job,” he said.
A chaplain needs to do what those he ministers to do to understand what they go through, Roehrig also said.
Roehrig drops by work stations with his trademark greeting, “Hey, friendly neighborhood chaplain here to put my nose in your business. How’s your business?” Airmen may just chat or may talk about problems.
“Either way, that conversation is my job,” Roehrig said.
As the Protestant pastor chaplain, he gives a sermon and picks out the elements of worship services. He also works with people who attend, helping them with emotional problems, visiting when they’re sick and so on.
To his Protestant Christian parishioners, Roehrig said he “brings the grace of Christ openly.”
In his unit ministry, people of all faiths need to see Roehrig as their chaplain and someone they can come to. So, Roehrig said, he aims to show the love and forgiveness of Christ instead of preaching and to serve the airmen the way Christ would.
Another of Roehrig’s responsibilities is religious education. Through these programs, he said, he tries to provide ways for Protestant Christians to share their faith in compliance with regulations that forbid overtly asking people to convert to Christianity.
While there’s usually a strong desire to share the faith, Roehrig said, he understands that pushing Christianity would make it difficult to serve people of different religions and enable their free expression of their beliefs.
Baldwin said her job involves being a jack of all trades, from ordering books and handling finances to managing facilities and getting people counseling.
“Pretty much we have to be available for anything that comes into chapel,” she said.
Baldwin said one of the hardest things about being a chaplain’s assistant is explaining that she isn’t a body guard, and another is feeling like she hasn’t done enough. She also said it’s hard when she doesn’t see what her work accomplishes and people don’t tell her if they like the results.
“The most rewarding part of being a chaplain’s assistant is knowing you did your best and people had fun, and knowing they can count on you if they need anything else,” she said.