Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Derek Guinn has been in the business of serving others for more than two decades. Guinn spent 10 years with Utah's National Guard as an intelligence analyst supporting ground forces and has worked as a chaplain in the 419th Fighter Wing for the last 11 years. I caught up with Guinn to talk chaplain duties of service and protection, and his relevance in today's military.
How are chaplains relevant in today's Air Force?
The questions about who we are, why we're here, where we're going are just as relevant today as any other time in human history. That's our job: to focus on the spiritual aspect of our people. Human nature has not changed in a thousand years, and it's not going to change in a thousand years to come.
If personnel have questions about the spiritual aspect of their lives, should they be hesitant to talk with a chaplain who doesn't share their faith?
The beauty of the chaplaincy is that there are chaplains who share a spiritual or faith background. There's not a single chaplain who would take offense if you prefer one chaplain over another because of a denominational preference. We're not selfish. Our job is to protect everyone's rights and privileges. Part of my job is to provide the right chaplain if someone make this request. Catholic, Jewish, LDS or Hindu, we're here to support the member's spiritual needs, not our own.
So, is this unique to the United States armed forces?
Very few countries offer the same opportunities for service members to practice religion. Our constitution goes out of its way to protect people's spiritual rights, so I encourage Airmen every chance I get to take advantage of this right, which has been provided for us at a tremendous cost.
Our whole role is helping protect service members' First Amendment right to practice religion. There are a lot of good counselors in the military who are not chaplains: front line supervisors, first sergeants and commanders can be great. What separates chaplains is our focus on both counseling and protecting an Airman's right to practice religion and be there for spiritual support.
Aside from spiritual counseling, you also offer privileged communication. Explain.
Chaplains have a 100 percent guaranteed privileged communication. Everything an Airman discusses with a chaplain is held in confidence. At no time is that information divulged, unless that Airman grants permission. That's the law. And it's central to any type of communication between an Airman and a chaplain.