Wing chaplain a welcome face at Allied Strike 2011

  • Published
  • By Capt. Tristan Hinderliter
  • USAFE Public Affairs
Ever since the 8th Century, chaplains have provided pastoral care and emotional support for members of the military. That tradition continues at Allied Strike 2011, Europe's premier Close Air Support exercise which began here on Wednesday.

Chap. (Maj). Mike Curtis, Wing Chaplain with the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing at Ramstein Air Base, is here for eight days of the exercise, supporting nearly 350 people from the U.S. and 14 Allied nations.

"This is one of the wing's larger exercises, so I definitely wouldn't miss being here to see folks," he said.

As Chaplain Curtis has been making the rounds the past couple days visiting with exercise participants and planners, he noticed the international airmen and soldiers were particularly excited to see a chaplain.

"They ask me about what chaplains do in the U.S. military, and compare that to what they do in their countries," he said. "For some of the nations here, chaplains are very new to their armed forces. Some of them don't see a chaplain very often, because there aren't very many of them. But they're all grateful to have the spiritual support nearby."

"The ones I've talked to have been just as open as our Airmen have been," he said.

Capt. Andrew Berrigan, an Air Liaison Officer with the 1st Air Support Operations Squadron and a planner for Allied Strike, said he was glad to see that a chaplain was included in the exercise.

"Chaplains are one of the greatest gifts we have in the military," he said. "It's really important to have that resource available to people in this sort of situation."

Since the 435th AGOW has many geographically separated operational units, Chaplain Curtis said he often travels to attend exercises and various events throughout the region. This presents the opportunity to visit with people in unique situations, he said.

"I often see people who have more time to be able to talk, because they're away," the chaplain said. "So, while the training isn't happening, people tend to be more relaxed and open up a little bit more."

That's never a bad thing, he said.

"Many of the folks here have recently deployed, and many of them will deploy soon," Chaplain Curtis said. "Being able to talk through some of the pre-deployment issues with them, talk through what they can expect as far as spiritual and family needs is a pretty big deal."

Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Chaplain Curtis is a protestant chaplain endorsed by the Presbyterian Church in America. He will be leading services on Sunday, which have been built into the exercise schedule.

"This is a very rewarding experience," he said. "As a chaplain, one of the biggest focuses I have is helping people - however I can provide spiritual care to our service members, I want to do that."