All the way!

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Donald Bretz
  • 71st Flying Training Wing chaplain
Whether it is a military mission, attending to relationships or our own wellness - commitment can make all the difference.

Whenever I drive by the Aerospace Physiology Unit I am reminded of going to the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Ga. When I was a cadet there, the Air Force was still using C-123's and C-141's.

During the first week we did platform work and in the second week we practiced jumping from towers up to 250 feet tall. Throughout the final week we completed five jumps from various aircraft. The Army sent cadets to this intensive training with the expectation that we would gain confidence and be molded by the U.S. Army Airborne motto - "All the way!"

After separating from the Army and graduating seminary, I was ordained a deacon and assigned to a parish with several seasoned priests on staff. The first time I assisted at a wedding rehearsal, the senior pastor of our parish told the couple: "It is commitment which makes love - not love which makes commitment."

He went on to say, if they were like most couples, they would fall in and out of love. There might even be times when they would not be able to stand each other. My denomination will not allow me to officiate at a wedding unless the couple is willing to make a life-long commitment to one another.

The last civilian congregation I served had a special relationship with a nearby half-way house for drug and alcohol abusers in recovery. Because of the confidentiality I offered as a priest, I became a trusted resource to some of the folks in recovery. I gained a lot of wisdom from the staff -all of whom were recovering addicts. One of the lessons I learned from being around long-time sponsors in Alcoholics Anonymous is: "Half measures avail us nothing." No one can achieve sobriety or excellence through half measures.

In the Air Force, one of our core values is "Excellence in all we do." Likewise, one of the three vision statements in the Chaplain Corps is "Pursuing excellence." Our chapel recently completed the Wing self inspection program and had a staff assistance visit from Air Education and Training Command.
We discovered, although we are compliant, there is still room for improvement. It only makes sense that we should try to do the best we possibly can within the resources available. Pursuing and achieving excellence requires commitment from the entire team.

If you are not pursuing excellence, you will not achieve it. There is a fundamental difference between faith and magical thinking. Faith involves a response. Faith is stepping out of an aircraft with a parachute on your back. Faith is saying "I do" to the one you have chosen as your life-long spouse.

Faith is walking the steps of sobriety. Faith is demonstrated by working the checklists and taking recommended actions. Knowing what to do is theory; but faith goes beyond knowing theory. Faith is a verb. It is evidenced when you step up and act on what you believe. We do not graduate pilots just because they believe they can fly; they earn their wings when they have stepped up and proven they can fly.

Our currency says "In God we trust." Do we trust God? Do you trust God? Most of us when we took our oath of enlistment or oath of office ended it with the words "so help me God." Are you seeking God's help? If you are, that is wonderful. If you are not, think about it.

I believe God is worthy of our trust and that God is a source of strength and hope. As a chaplain, I have seen how spiritual health in general and religious faith in particular has enabled Airmen and family members to remain resilient, strong and positive. In the end, it is God's commitment that makes the difference for people with religious faith. People of faith have the hope that God is worthy of their trust - all the way - even beyond the limits of their sight.

Whether it is a military mission, attending to relationships or our own wellness - commitment can make all the difference.