Chaplain Launches Dialogue, Exchange Supporting Afghan Air Force > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > Article

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel, 438th Air Expeditionary Wing

KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 11, 2017 —
Faith is a center piece of life for many people in the world. In the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, however, it is a matter of identity.

This is no less true for Afghan airmen and soldiers on the frontlines in the fight against an anti-government insurgency that is active in much of the country.

Assigned to Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air, Air Force Chaplain (Maj.) Chris Conklin is the first air advisor charged with assisting the Afghan military’s religious and cultural affairs program with the mission of effective religious care and spiritual readiness for those who defend their nation.

“Our priority for the future is to prepare this essential office to keep pace as the Afghan air force grows,” Conklin said. “We want to ensure the teams’ manpower grows as the total force grows and want to produce clarity on career progression [for religious advisers]. Additionally, we want to encourage thought into what requirements members are going to have in the Afghan air force.”


Once a week, Conklin meets with his counterpart, Afghan National Army Col. Abdul Basir, the Afghan air force’s lead religious and cultural affairs officer, to discuss issues surrounding religious and cultural support operations in Kabul and bases throughout Afghanistan.

To attend meetings with their Afghan partners, Conklin and his chaplain assistant, Staff Sgt. Chris O’Neil, leave their secured compound wearing tactical vests and Kevlar helmets. Meeting in the offices of the Afghan air force, the team’s discussions have little religious content and focus on program progress and challenges.

“My goal is not to teach them how to be good Islamic scholars,” Conklin said. “In the same way we train our Air Force chaplains. We are not instructing on how to lead worship services, but…

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