The Holy Helicopters of Afghanistan
A US Air Force article highlights the religious ministry support team at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, where chaplains rotate to geographically separated units to provide continuous religious support:
Thousands of feet above Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, two Airmen, riding in a helicopter, wearing more than 75 pounds of gear, hover around the city before landing. These Airmen are not pararescuemen or tactical air control party—they’re a chaplain and chaplain assistant.
After landing, they travel to the nearby chapel, where they deliver a religious service to coalition forces before packing up and doing it all over again.
On one hand, it serves as a reminder of the risks these chaplains and their assistants take — and they do it all only to support the religious needs of the troops. A few years ago, military atheist Justin Griffith tried to demean chaplains by claiming their didn’t actually serve in combat — the chaplains killed in combat, or receiving the Medal of Honor, notwithstanding. Sometimes, people need to be reminded.
It also serves as a reminder that the US military officially supports the religious exercise of its troops. It even dedicates manpower, resources, and helicopters specifically to that purpose — even in combat, and even in a country that can sometimes be resistant, if not hostile, to the religious faith of US troops.
Military religious freedom certainly isn’t perfect, but sometimes it gets done right.