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Extend the Bench

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Hailey Farrell
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Religious and spiritual leaders of varying beliefs were invited to Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, September 28th, 2022 to discuss a new partnership with the base chapel.

Extend the Bench is a pilot program dreamed up by U.S. Air Force Chaplain Col. David Kelley, Air Force Global Strike Command chaplain, to maintain readiness in case the chapel team becomes overwhelmed with more requests for care than they can provide, leaving Airmen and their families without spiritual care.

“In the event of what the Air Force calls a 'mass casualty event’, the religious and spiritual leaders from the community would come on and perform spiritual triage,” said U.S. Air Force Chaplain Maj. William Masaeh, 509th Bomb Wing Deputy Chaplain.

Mesaeh explains spiritual triage as, accessing the severity of someone coming for help and process what they need whether its to be helped by a team member at the chapel or a source outside the chapel.

Religious leaders who are compatible with the program’s needs and can commit to being on the team will receive quarterly training.

Quarterly training is necessary to prepare them to perform spiritual triage according to the guidelines of the military, which they might not be familiar with.

After laying the foundation for the Whiteman AFB program, Mesaeh invited Kelley to the kickoff event.

“Seeing this happen inspires Chief Beasley and I that if things were to ever happen, Airmen would be able to get what help they need,” said Kelley.

Kelley chose the name Extend the Bench as a sports analogy.

If the players already in the game get injured or overwhelmed, you want a long bench of trained, ready, and invested players, ready to come in and help do what needs to be done, he said.

“I really appreciate the initiative of the wing chaplain, Chaplain Combs, to intentionally engage this kind of stuff.” said Reverend Jon Cshweiger, a clergyman from Knob Noster, Missouri.

U.S. Air Force Chaplain Lt. Col. Justin Combs, 509th Bomb Wing Chaplain said it's important to have these relationships built ahead of time so they're in place should the base need the.

“The biggest thing is making sure we’re doing our job, creating partnerships in the community, because the stronger the relationships throughout the community, the stronger our Airmen and families are going to be,” he said.

Programs like this are part of a larger effort across the Air Force to maintain a resilient, well-equipped and -trained, combat-ready force.