ROCKI 20-01, insider’s perspective: The chaplain

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Aaron Irvin
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Beginning on Nov. 4, 2019, more than 500 Airmen from Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, tackled a full spectrum readiness exercise to ensure Airmen are prepared to perform the necessary tasks in a highly contested environment.

 Although simulated, operating in a deployed location can be challenging for Airmen. This is where U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Jonathan Black, 19th Mission Support Group chaplain, came into play. Throughout the exercise, Black, alongside U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Morgan, 19th Airlift Wing religious affairs Airman, kept a pulse on the morale and well-being of Airmen during ROCKI 20-01.

“Our mission is to provide First Amendment rights to all Airmen around the camp,” Black said. “We have also been doing a lot of unit engagement, ensuring morale is high, while making sure all emotional and spiritual needs are met.”

Each day Black and Morgan traversed the simulated deployed encampment, delivering hand warmers, food, and reading material while checking on the well-being of every Airman.

“It doesn’t matter what location or environment we are in -- being a chaplain is a people profession,” Black said.  “We listen, take care of, and provide for people -- that can be done anywhere, any time.”

Chaplains are critical in the pursuit of mental, social, and spiritual needs of Airmen completing three of the four pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness.

“Black and Morgan have provided excellent unit support during ROCKI 20-01,” said U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Knight, 19th AW wing chaplain. “Their role has been indispensable to the spiritual morale of exercise participants.”

With an ever-changing Air Force, this exercise offered Airmen a way to experience new responsibilities and challenges that could be encountered in an austere and contested environment.

“I really enjoy these exercises because it allows me to talk to Airmen from all different backgrounds at a larger volume,” Black said. “It builds camaraderie and a relationship that invites Airmen to open up and be more likely to come talk to me if they encounter any problems.”