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New chaplains strive to create connections with wing Airmen

MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif. -- The 129th Rescue Wing Chaplain's Office is pleased to welcome Capt. Dave Schenone and 1st Lt. Philip Smith, as two of the newest chaplains to serve in the California National Guard.

With the combined experience of more than 28 years in chaplaincy, Schenone, prior active-duty Air Force chaplain, and Smith, former chaplain in the Air Force Reserve, are excited to serve and proactively engage with Airmen at the 129th RQW.

"We strive to be sort of a presence ministry. We not only want to visit Airmen but be actively involved and create a relationship making sure they know we're here," Schenone said. "We want to be in the operations building, with our mechanics, around our security forces guys and up to tempo with our [pararescuemen]. We want to be seen and maintain a constant connection with our personnel rather than sit in our office and be deemed untouchable."

In hopes of being considered part of the team, Schenone, also a part-time Christian contingency chaplain at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., is passionate and readily available 24/7 to assist in emergency services, crisis counseling and provide religious services for a variety of faith groups.

"Appointments are encouraged but we have an extreme open door policy," Schenone said. "I am always available and the office is currently working on setting up a plan to better establish and utilize the in-house resources we have, to include our new psychologist, Mr. Haley." Mr. David Haley is the wing's new director of psychological health, or WDPH, and is co-located in the chaplain's office.

Understanding the difficulty as a traditional Guardsman and having to fulfill mandatory training during drill weekends, Smith, a Protestant chaplain for the 129th RQW and Protestant program director at Beale Air Force Base in Marysville, Calif., also makes a continuous effort to be a positive presence for Airmen.

"The biggest job we have as chaplains is to provide for a person's first amendment right to freedom of religion. Whatever their chosen religion or faith might be, we provide them the space and opportunities needed to practice it," Smith said. "I think traditional practices of holding service on Sunday of drill won't really cut it, we're looking outside that kind of thinking because we will have a greater impact taking that two hour window to split off and spend time with our Guardsmen."

As chaplains, Schenone and Smith provide servicemembers the opportunity to reinforce camaraderie between troops, develop deeper levels of spirituality and embrace the family-type relationships built while serving in the military.

"The need for military ministry is unique, unlike normal religious situations service members are often isolated or stationed in restricted areas of the world where regular priests and pastors can't get to," Schenone said. "Chaplains have the opportunity to literally be with them and minister effectively."

"I'm very grateful to be military ministry and doing what I love." Schenone said. "It's really not a career, it's a calling. I love our military personnel. I love everything about the military. That's the number one reason I am a chaplain; the love I have for people because the love of Christ in my heart."