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New Full-time Chaplain to offer support for the Wing

Major Christopher Otten, 175th Wing Chaplain, speaks with Technical Sergeant Brian Hicks in the supply warehouse at Warfield Air National Guard base on October 29, 2013.  Maj. Otten routinely stops into numerous work areas during the day to visit with members of the 175th Wing.  Air National Guard photo by TSgt. Christopher Schepers (RELEASED)

Major Christopher Otten, 175th Wing Chaplain, speaks with Technical Sergeant Brian Hicks in the supply warehouse at Warfield Air National Guard base on October 29, 2013. Maj. Otten routinely stops into numerous work areas during the day to visit with members of the 175th Wing. Air National Guard photo by TSgt. Christopher Schepers (RELEASED)

Baltimore -- As the Maryland Air National Guard goes through a mission transition, one thing airmen can depend on is a spiritual support system throughout the transition period. During the final week of August the wing formally introduced Major Christopher Otten as the full-time chaplain. Maj. Otten is no stranger to the 175th Wing, since 1999 he was a member of the chaplain team as a traditional guardsman before he moved to two different Air, Education and Training Command bases, the 178th Fighter Wing in Springfield, Ohio and the 149th Fighter Wing in San Antonio, Texas.

Previously, National Guard bases were not permitted to have a full-time chaplain; however that changed this past year. The National Guard Bureau has authorized every National Guard base that is not collocated with an active duty base to have a full-time chaplain.

"The 175th wing is on the front end of bringing in a full-time chaplain. The leadership on base because of a high ops tempo decided to be on the leading edge of doing the best they can to care for their airmen. So, they decided to take the NGB up on their offer to fill the position," said Otten.

The chaplain team is part of a group of people that are in place to provide care for every airman. In addition to the chaplain team, the Director of Psychological Health, the Family Readiness Program, the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and Equal Opportunity teams provide a full spectrum of airman care.

All National Guard members regardless of their spiritual background can count on the chaplain team to provide counsel in any situation. Conversations between airmen and the chaplain are completely confidential. "The Air Force gave chaplains the absolute right of confidentiality," explained Otten.

"The chaplain corps number one priority is to protect and to respect the constitutional right of every airman to worship and to practice their faith according to the dictates of their conscience," said Otten.

Regardless of an airmen's faith they can be assured that the chaplain team will do everything they can to bring in someone of the same faith to speak to that airman. "We are guardians of the freedom of religion of the constitution and are here to make sure every airman has that freedom here on base," stated Otten.

Being a people person is something that has benefited Maj. Otten in his career as a chaplain. He comes from a congregation of approximately 1,000 people, so transitioning to a full-time chaplain at a base with over 1,000 people from all different walks of life is something that he welcomes whole-heartedly. "Talking with airmen and getting to learn about their beliefs is the most interesting thing I get to do," said Otten.

The chaplain team offers many services to both the traditional guardsmen and full-time employees. During Unit Training Assembly's the chaplain team provides worship services for many religious beliefs. They also embed themselves to be a positive influence during roll calls, promotion ceremonies, retirement ceremonies and holiday celebrations. During the work week the chaplain team sends out uplifting email messages entitled "Soul Food 2 Go" which provides positive and uplifting messages to members of the Maryland Air National Guard. On the fourth Tuesday of every month the chaplain team holds an event called "Spiritual Fitness". This program gives airmen the opportunity to engage in a bible study with the chaplain and other members of the guard community.

However, the main reason behind having a full-time chaplain in the National Guard is to always have someone that airmen can turn to in times of need. "The whole point of having a full-time chaplain is that if someone needs to talk with someone I am available anytime. Whether it is in the evening or during the weekend I am here if people want to talk with me."