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From underground Strategic Command, chaplain’s ‘cool job’

BELLEVUE, Neb. (BP)–Jason Peters ministers in a parish that stretches from 30,000 feet above the earth to deep within an underground command post.
He is living a childhood dream as a chaplain at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Neb.
“As a child I had the privilege of knowing retired Army Chaplain Arnold ‘Smokey’ Stover. I was shocked when he told me the Army had pastors. My father was a pastor and had served in Vietnam, but I had no idea you could do both at the same time. My first thought was, ‘What a cool job!'”
Fifteen years later, Peters now has that job.
Assigned to three different units at Offutt, comprising more than 1,000 members, Peters is considered their pastor and responsible to the wing commander for meeting their spiritual needs.
“Within each assignment, I find different avenues of ministry,” said Peters, a 1998 graduate of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Mo.
One of the units is the J-6 Directorate of the United States Strategic Command, which includes personnel from the Navy, Army, Marines and Coast Guard. Peters received top-secret clearance so he could minister in this large, underground industrial environment.
“Because of the sensitive nature of their work, coupled with the fact that there are six generals/admirals in the complex, the stress level is high and the outlets are few. As a chaplain, I am sometimes able to help them work through issues about which they can’t even tell their spouse,” Peters said.
Another of his units is the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron. “In order to connect with the pilots, the navigators and the electronic warfare officers or ‘ravens,’ I have been given the opportunity to fly reconnaissance missions with them. Wearing their uniform, understanding their language and being able to identify with their jobs has opened some great doors of ministry.”
Peters works one night shift a week in order to visit the maintenance personnel working on the aircraft. “I encourage them in their faith and ask them thought-provoking questions. It is amazing how open they are to talking about issues of faith in the middle of the night.”
The 440 cops in the 55th Security Forces Squadron are the third part of Peters’ parish. “After spending hours at flight line guard posts, at the gates and riding around in patrol vehicles, I am finally beginning to be recognized as one of them,” he said.
They take advantage of guaranteed confidentiality with a chaplain. “I have had the opportunity to do marriage counseling, counseling for work-related issues, sexual addiction and substance abuse, and even responded to two active-duty suicides in the last six months.”
His ministry to the security forces includes the confinement facility on base. “Just a few weeks ago I was blessed with the opportunity to spend over an hour with a man who was being court martialled on charges related to child pornography. In that hour I was able to share the gospel and pray with him.”
The more normal side of Peter’s ministry includes weekly services on base for about 200 worshipers and leading the chapel youth group.
“My wife, Kimberly, and I have also had numerous opportunities for ministry in our neighborhood. Living in military housing has allowed us to be involved in neighborhood Bible studies, barbecues and some intense late-night chats.
“Military chaplains are simply missionaries,” Peters said. “We minister in a world that is foreign to those who never served in the military. We speak in acronyms, shop in BX’s, PX’s, NEX’s and commissaries. We often wear funny-looking clothes and some of us even enjoy living in tents.
“I thank God for the doors he has opened,” Peters said, “and only hope that our chaplains will faithfully respond to the task.”

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  • John Gaskin