5/7/2008 - MACDILL FLA, --
The Civil Air Patrol Group 3 chaplains were recognized by their 6th Air Mobility Wing counterparts at a luncheon held recently at the MacDill chapel.
MacDill Chaplain (1st Lt.) Anthony Wiggins wanted the CAP chaplains to be recognized for the devotion they exhibit, and shine some light on their little-known mission.
"Speaking with the Civil Air Patrol chaplains permitted me to hear their story, which speaks volumes of their service, highlighting the core value of service before self," said Chaplain Wiggins. "It amazed me to learn how much they give of themselves in order to benefit others and support the military community while continuing to care for themselves, their families, and congregations."
CAP chaplains are civilian men and women volunteers trained to perform religious services and humanitarian programs. They provide support and build morale to military personnel while the Air Force chaplains are deployed. Group 3 CAP members are based at MacDill.
"Our training is similar to the active duty chaplains in the Air Force. The only difference is the physical and age requirements," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Linda Pugsley, Civil Air Patrol Chaplains group leader.
Chaplain Pugsley served 10 years on active duty in the Air Force as a flight nurse before retiring. She retired as a major and decided in 2003 to return to the Air Force but due to the age requirements was denied.
"I met the physical requirements but the age limit was there," she said. "Then I got a call later on from a friend telling me about joining the Civil Air Patrol chaplains. I found that this job was no different from being a nurse, where I get to help and support servicemembers in need."
Although they provide religious services at various functions around the country, they also cater to the spiritual needs of servicemembers.
"We are a part of a 12 group team located in Florida," said Chaplain Pugsley. "Our team represents group three which are associated with MacDill."
The auxiliary chaplains have travelled hundreds of miles around the country working without pay and little compensation and are devoted to spreading the gospel.
"We have one of our members working with the Florida Air National Guard," she said. "He travels 250 miles to funeral services."
CAP chaplains work one weekend a month, paying for their own uniforms, programs and travel unless it's an emergency response mission. Those are just some of the sacrifices they make, but the rewards are many, they say.
"My most memorable moment on the job was when I was at a hurricane rescue mission down at Key West in 2005," Chaplain Pugsley said. "The people living down there had lost everything, but there were these two little boys selling avocados to buy a house for their parents. It brought tears to my eyes."
Since 2005 the chaplains have completed 155 services and missions. The CAP's chaplains program encourages frequent contacts between its members and other religious leaders.
When clergy receive an appointment as CAP chaplains, they become members of individual units. They receive the grade of first lieutenant if they are appointed on a waiver of seminary education, or captain if they meet all requirements.
Chaplains share in the responsibilities and advantages CAP offers its members and serve units in the area where they live. Under direction of unit commanders, chaplains assume general responsibility for the moral well being of servicemembers.
"Their selfless servant attitude inspires me to be thankful for the opportunity to serve those in need spiritually and emotionally without hesitation," said Chaplain Wiggins. "Our showing them appreciation reminded me of the double blessing I have as an active duty chaplain."
MacDill chaplains have worked closely with the CAP's and felt their contributions to the Air Force deserved recognition, hence the luncheon.
"I believe that God provides these great privileges and profound spiritual moments for ministry as constant reminders of the importance and impact we as chaplains have throughout the broad ministry spectrum of the military community," he said.