Chaplain's Assistant "Suits Up" to Serve Others

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Matkin
  • 161 ARW Public Affairs

Air National Guard members are often given the opportunity to serve others. This is especially true for Chaplains and their assistants, whose main job is serving others. For a deployed chaplain's assistant from the 161st Air Refueling Wing, Phoenix, serving others is both a blessing and source of pride.

"Being able to help [service members] going downrange is a huge blessing to me and I get to do it just about every day I'm here," said Tech Sgt. John Baltz 161 ARW chaplain assistant currently deployed with the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing, Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. "We have more than 250 [service members] come through our Chapel Annex doors each day, and many of them are going downrange. They often come to the chapel looking for toiletries, to use our Wi-Fi, grab cold water, or fresh coffee. It's a wonderful feeling being able to help them."

Sergeant Baltz said it is often challenging to not work longer than his normal duty hours because of the vast number of service members who visit the chapel.

"The six airmen in our shop are outnumbered 200 percent by the permanent party and up to 500 percent when adding in the transients," he said. 

"Getting that proper balance between work, [physical training] and rest can be difficult," he added. "Thankfully we have volunteers that help out in the Chapel Annex."

He said he was asked while speaking to one of these volunteers, who happened to be from the 376th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, Manas, Kyrgyzstan, if he would ever be willing to put on a protective suit and train with their working dogs. 

Such training exercises are used to build confidence in the dog team's capabilities, thus helping ensure law and order is enforced at Transit Center, Manas.

Within a week of Sergeant Baltz agreeing to "suit up" he was literally up and running with D-D-Dewey, one the working dogs. 

"During the event, the K-9 handler gave me directions on what to do when I was taken down, which was to try to get up and keep moving, so I did," said Sergeant Baltz. "I dragged D-D-Dewey for five yards or so before they told me to just lie down so they could get D-D-Dewey off of me. They asked me if I wanted to do it a second time, which I was fine with. During the second time, D-D-Dewey was going for the take down, mouth wide open ready to bite, when he missed me and flew by me. I immediately turned around just in time for him to get me again by the arm and take me down for the second and final time."

Sergeant Baltz said it has been experiences like these, experiences of serving others, which have deepened his pride in being able to serve in the Air Force.

"I've always been proud to be in the Air Force, but this deployment has given me an even deeper sense of pride to be an Airman," he said. "In the military, we have certain duties to perform, certain things that we need to do, a certain load to bear, and to do our fair share in the good and righteous fight for America's freedom. I have a job to do, a ministry to perform, which is to help other people in the military so they can do their jobs and keep America safe."