MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- Many doors aboard the Air Station mark the entrance to services, support and work sections, but a select few are gateways to communities of faith and assistance.
The Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Chapel offers faith-based services to military personnel and their families from all walks of life and at all times of need.
While a chapel is a familiar sign of faith and church, the building itself is only a representation of location, according to Cmdr. Thomas W. Falkenthal, command chaplain, MCAS Beaufort.
“The building is only the ‘where’, not the ‘who’ or even the ‘what’ we are as God’s people,” Falkenthal said. “The Chapel family invites everyone to join in both the Protestant and Catholic worship communities. A community is what the Chapel is really all about.”
Protestant and Catholic support and services are available for all active duty military, reservists, retirees and family members in the Tri-Command area. Some of the services include weekly worship, religious education classes, ceremony officiators and counseling.
“The doors to all of our services are open to everyone,” Falkenthal said.
The operational tempo of Air Station personnel can also lead to an increased demand for deployment-based services, including pre and post-deployment briefs, classes and counseling. All of the services are intended to support all of the needs people may encounter, according to Falkenthal.
Deployments and high-tempo operations can also have a direct impact on the chaplains. The Air Station Chapel has one Catholic and five Protestant chaplains to meet the service requirements as well as the individual attention of 12,000 Marines, Sailors and family members aboard Fightertown.
Operational demands recently hit the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island Chapel, leaving them with only enough Catholic staff to offer services to the recruit population. The Station Chapel walls may not be able to contain all Tri-Command personnel, but the community found within can help ease any and all burdens, according to Falkenthal.
“Sometimes our focus can swing from one area to another, for example with deployments we have an increase need to support the deploying service member’s family,” Falkenthal said. “But, our services will always be available for anyone.”
A chaplain’s interaction with personnel can also vary from highlights to low points, according to Falkenthal.
“Our touch points with people are usually either very positive, or on the other end,” Falkenthal said. “The high points are weddings, births and baptisms, but there is also always the need for helping people struggle through tougher times like deaths, notifications and assistance. Our services encompass every need that could be experienced.”
The Air Station Chapel also recently became a test site for a new military-based program, Catholics Seeking Christ. The program aims to fortify the shortage of Catholic chaplains with a peer ministry for young Catholics. Religious Program Specialist 1st Class Joseph McCoy is leading the program aboard the Air Station.
“It will consist of peer-to-peer sessions covering different topics, discussions and scripture reading with a range of multi-media presentations,” McCoy said. “We are really excited about it because it is providing community leadership roles to young service members while continuing to support all of our personnel.”
Chaplains and RPs are distinct from civilian religious worship leaders, because they live the same lives as the people they are serving, according to Falkenthal.
“We wear the same uniform, walk through work spaces and deploy to the same places as all of our personnel,” Falkenthal said. “It really provides us with extra credibility and is probably one of the reasons young Marines and Sailors come to us in times of need.”
The Chapel structure may be built of wood and brick, but the community inside of it is made of celebrating, growing, joyful and caring people who are most importantly inviting, according to Falkenthal.
“We want everyone to come in and be a part of this family,” Falkenthal said.
For more information on services and support available at the Chapel, call 228-7775.