Unity: MHAFB religious affairs champions faith education
By Senior Airman Tyrell Hall, 366th Fighter Wing Puclic Affairs
/ Published January 21, 2020
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Unit cohesion is a key element directly tied to mission success and Airman morale. It's brought about by the building of effective relationships and the practice of understanding differences. This ideal was championed by the MHAFB religious affairs when they constructed an interfaith council, Jan. 17, 2020.
The vision for the program was born of the desire to educate. In the interfaith council program, people with different belief systems come together monthly to learn about each others’ faiths. The goal is not to convert, but to expand horizons and shed light on other belief systems.
This program is the first of its kind to arrive at MHAFB. Staff Sgt. Travis Leigh, 366th Fighter Wing Chief of Staff religious affairs specialist, is taking the lead in developing the council. He shared his vision for the program.
"We are really seeking to bolster the education piece through the interfaith council," Leigh said. "We want everyone who wants to be involved to take part."
Leigh expressed the chapel wants to focus on helping people understand that it's ok to have differing beliefs and opinions.
Leigh said, "Coming to the acceptance that someone believes something different than you can enhance a unit’s cohesion."
Introducing the idea of accepting simple differences can decrease strife within the work place.
It is this aspect that has driven the MHAFB religious affairs to create a program where people from all walks of life can take part in learning about other belief systems and to bring that vision into fruition.
But the chapel’s vision doesn’t stop there. It expands to area-wide faith education, as the meetings are open to both service members and civilians whose faiths are represented on base. Airmen are encouraged to attend the meetings regardless of rank.
“We want to continue to expand our reach to impact the base and bridge the gap between faith groups,” Leigh said. “All-in-all, it's about serving the community, not just the Gunfighters, but Mountain Home as well."
Many people from various walks of faith live on base and in the local community, but no one is required to be a part of a particular religious group to take part in an interfaith program.
With unity and understanding as the goal, Maj. Matthew Ellis, 366th FW chaplain, stated they can't afford to let anyone slip between the cracks.
"We never want to tell anyone we don't have a resource for them," Ellis said. "The interfaith council provides an avenue of communication where they know their voices are being heard.”
The care the chapel provides to its Airmen is the very same care that exists to service the local community in order to build relationships and create an atmosphere of understanding across the board.
Through education and transparency, the interfaith council program provides a strong foundation for common ground, creating facets of unity throughout the community and people of all religious beliefs.