Hill chaplains host Faith Leader Summit

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Kayla Fitzgerald
  • 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Hill Air Force Base’s chaplains held a Faith Leader Summit here, May 18, 2023. The summit was conducted as part of Project One, a base wide initiative designed to foster diversity and inclusion both on- and off-base.

The event brought together over thirty faith leaders from various religions and backgrounds to discuss building bridges in order to help Airmen and their families have a better sense of community and belonging.

“Following the pandemic, we needed to re-establish a working relationship between Hill and the many faith communities in the local area,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Jonathon Austin, 75th Air Base Wing chaplain. “Our primary goal, however, was to connect with these faith communities in order to aid our Airmen in finding community in their neighborhoods.”

Attendees were welcomed by wing and chapel leadership and presented with a mission brief that emphasized the importance of inclusion, including its impact on readiness and the role faith communities play in promoting it.

“Feeling like you’re accepted can be a challenge,” said Col. Jeffrey Holland, 75th ABW commander. “I think faith communities are a fantastic avenue for our Airmen [to find] shared experience, shared values and shared interests.”

Participants were then given a glimpse into a few of the base’s missions during a brief tour in order to increase their understanding of the rewards and challenges of military life.

“Our Airmen have an integral role in providing for the defense of our nation,” said Austin. “This is a weight that affects our Airmen’s lives, whether it be mentally, emotionally, spiritually or relationally. Informing faith leaders of this responsibility gives them the ability to minister more effectively to the unique needs of our Airmen.”

The summit concluded with more in depth discussions on Project One which were lauded as a valuable opportunity to network and express excitement about the possibility of future collaborations and partnerships.

“The thirty-two faith leaders in attendance seemed to resonate with the difficulties our Airmen have in assimilating into the local area, said Austin. “Near the end of our day, we brainstormed together ways in which the Hill AFB chapel team and local faith communities could partner together to make a difference.”

Project One is intended to increase mission readiness by creating, fostering, fortifying and sustaining enduring inclusive on- and off-base communities in which Airmen and their families can comfortably thrive during their service here. It includes five lines of effort, one of which is religious and spiritual engagement, which Austin explained plays an important role in the initiative.

“Religion and spirituality are primary venues for community and relationship building,” said Austin. “If we can help our Airmen get connected more quickly to their appropriate faith communities, it will go a long way toward solving the concerns of Project One.”

Moving forward, organizers plan to build off of the foundation created by the summit by continue to engage with faith leaders to promote diversity and combat inequity.

“This was a good first step in addressing Project One from the perspective of spirituality,” said Austin. “We are already planning new ways our team can connect with [faith communities] and work together to serve our Armen and families.”