CIU Chaplaincy Students Visit Shaw Air Force Base
A Close-Up Look at a Future in Military Chaplaincy
By Bob Holmes
Out on the flight line of Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina, it is really noisy. As maintenance crews scurry among rows of F-16s, more of the jets land nearby, causing a thumping sensation against the chest of even those standing at a distance.
It’s the perfect place for a military chaplain.
That’s what the students enrolled in the Master of Divinity in Military Chaplaincy program at Columbia International University learned as they toured Shaw on a hot and humid October day. Shaw is the headquarters of the 20th Fighter Wing, making it an important and strategic base, the perfect spot for chaplaincy students to be introduced to the spiritual needs of U.S. airmen.
As Master Sgt. Adam Cobb of Shaw’s “Tiger AMC” (Aircraft Maintenance Unit) offered the chaplaincy students a close-up look of an F-16, he noted that the flight line can be a lonely place where a chaplain is welcomed.
“It’s nice to know that someone cares about you,” Cobb shouted over the constant roar. “A lot of times you feel like you’re not on anyone’s radar out here. Whether or not (an airman) is religious, (a chaplain) really makes a difference.”
The same message also came from the top man at Shaw, Col. Daniel Lasica. As the students sat around Lasica’s conference room table, he told them that he could not imagine the military without chaplaincy.
“If chaplaincy were gone, there would be a huge, huge void, and there are not many entities in the military that I can say that about,” Lasica said. “It would be a massive impact.”
That resonated with chaplaincy student Ben Brandes, a military veteran who served in Afghanistan in 2004-2005 before the Lord saved him and led him to military chaplaincy and CIU. Over lunch, he mingled with 70 new recruits who were just assigned to Shaw.
“I think it’s real easy to see how simple it is to connect with people where they’re at,” Brandes said. “Just to hear the adjustment that these airmen are going through, I think that serves as a great starting point to build a relationship with these guys and asking them, ‘What’s going on in your life right now?’”
Also on the tour was chaplaincy student Kyle Lambertson who said a lot of what was being explained on the tour was already familiar to him because of his CIU chaplaincy courses. He points to professors, Dr. Mike Langston and Dr. Brian Bohlman, both experienced military chaplains, as giving him “a leg up.”
“We’re coming in with a little bit of knowledge, a little extra background (in chaplaincy),” Lambertson said. “If you’re just getting a normal M.Div. you’re not going to get that information.”
One of the newest chaplains at Shaw is 2007 CIU graduate Nick LoPresto who was recently reassigned to Shaw from a base in Texas. Walking across Shaw with the CIU students, he said that CIU fully equipped him to accomplish the Great Commission as he “visits with the airmen, builds relationships, earns their trust, and then provides the gospel.”
“You get the chance to be the visible reminder of The Holy, the incarnational presence of who our Lord is, and let them know, ‘the Lord loves you, Christ died for you.’”