Wiccan Service Packed at Air Force Basic Training

 Cauldrons, spell books, brooms, and swords in a military witchcraft ceremony.
Photo credit: Katrina Gutierrez

A local paper — in an article briefly titled “No Hocus Pocus” — noted that “hundreds” of basic trainees have attended Wiccan services at Lackland AFB, Texas:

[There is] a curious multiplication of Wiccans at Lackland. Hundreds of basic military trainees have chosen to study witchcraft at the base.
“When we come over here on a Sunday, often times, there are 300 to 400 (trainees),” Tony Gatlin said.
Gatlin is the coven’s high priest. His wife is the high priestess.

The Wiccan services at Lackland were actually highlighted last year as well, and Gatlin — a retired senior Air Force officer — was introduced at the time.

Gatlin explained the support process behind their service in a self-authored article.  He acknowledges that “only a small number” are actually members of a Wiccan “faith.”  Basic training chapel services are often packed — filled both by those who are driven to faith by hardship, and by those who are looking for free doughnuts and some time away from drill sergeants.  A few months ago, a chaplain posted a similarly-themed article on his Facebook page, noting hundreds of US Army trainees had been attending Buddhist services.  The post was subsequently pulled down.

That “vulnerability” is why religious freedom critics like Chris Rodda of Michael Weinstein’s MRFF have berated similar Christian gatherings.  Of course, Rodda criticized only Christian gatherings because, well, that’s what Weinstein’s group does.

The local Air Force chaplains accurately note they provide the means for all to exercise their spirituality, to the extent the mission and resources allow:

“Our job is to make sure that, to the extent that we reasonably can, we accommodate the religious views and free exercise rights these military members have,” said JBSA-Lackland Chaplain Col. Michael Heuer.

On a somewhat unrelated note, it was interesting to see the article describe why one young troop got involved with witchcraft:

The 19-year-old became a witch five years ago after being a religious wanderer. He said fantasy books and the Harry Potter phenomenon fueled his interest in the Wiccan faith.

There are still some who think video games, movies, and the like are harmless distractions, regardless of their content.