VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
Leaping out of a plane at 13,000 feet is something some Airmen have had to train to do. Some actually do it to save their life or the lives of their military brethren; it is all in the line of duty. However, on April 30, 2016, the Vandenberg Chapel helped 14 Airmen jump out of a perfectly good airplane for an all-together different reason. They took a “Leap of Faith” in the name of spiritual resilience.
The Air Force stresses that a fit Airman is not only physically, mentally and socially resilient, but spiritually resilient as well. The “Leap of Faith” program was designed to help individuals identify and develop what it is that they look to when at worst, their lives seem to be approaching free-fall.
Just as someone participates in a run or other event put on by the gym to develop their physical muscles, we at the chapel have a strong belief in the need for events which increase an Airman’s spiritual muscles.
The program does not advocate a particular spiritual direction or course, but rather encourages participants to think of things that keep them grounded. Spiritual fitness does not mandate a particular belief but rather encourages adherence to beliefs, principles or values that allow you to survive and thrive no matter what is thrown your way. It can and often does center around religious beliefs and practices but not always.
The program was open to any active duty military member at Vandenberg and some of the youngest as well as more senior Airmen participated.
“I was able to get a better understanding of how my faith impacted my fears. My faith helps me to overcome my fears and gives me strength,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Johnson, 30th Mission Support Group deputy commander.
One key to this program was not only talking about the need for spiritual resilience, but actually putting that resilience to the test.
“Placing my life somewhat at risk allowed me to focus and reflect on my foundations,” said Airman 1st Class Stephen Kimble, 30th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operator. “It allowed me to reconnect with what gives me strength.”
Whether you speak of your spirituality connected to a religious community or the laws of physics, when participants exited the plane and began to speed toward the ground, they put that faith to the test.
“I believe that learning has a greater impact when tied to a major emotional event,” said Johnson. “People will always remember this lesson because it was connected with an event, jumping out of a plane, they will always remember”
Although this was the first time this event has taken place, it will not be the last. When sign-ups were announced on May 18 there was room for 14 participants; by noon nearly 50 individuals had filled out an application.
“As long as the Air Force continues to stress spirituality as one of the key components that make up the Comprehensive Airmen Fitness program, the chapel will provide as many incredible opportunities for Airmen to develop their spiritual resilience,” said Staff Sgt. Elisa Panek, 30th Space Wing chaplain assistant.