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Robins Hosts Clergy Summit | News

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Robins Hosts Clergy Summit
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Robins Air Force Base Chaplains say 17 civilian workers have committed suicide since 2009. Five of them occurred last year.

That's one of the main reasons the chaplains and base leadership put together the first ever clergy summit. About 70 clergy from different faiths and denominations gathered at the Museum of Aviation Thursday. Air Force Chaplains can help military members in spiritual matters, but by federal law, they can't provide support to civilian workers. To fill in the gap, Robins Chaplain Jonathan Wade says they want to inform community clergy about stresses facing Robins employees.

Reverend Scott Petersen from All Saints Episcopal Church welcomes the opportunity to help.

"There's sort of a specific set of questions that they are trying to address. I think trying to be a community of care with those who might be struggling, or suicidal or might be going through difficulties, that local clergy can help with," he said.

Even though "civilian airmen" do not wear a uniform, Wade said, they contribute to the defense of the United States. He said clergy can help by understanding the weight of the job.

"We are not going to take no for an answer. What can we do to stop suicide? Suicide is sort of the last thing that happens when everybody's crisis overwhelms them. We want to impact them before the crisis," Wade said.

Robins attempt to engage local clergy through the summit is a pilot program for the Air Force. If it's successful, Air Force-wide Chaplain Colonel Jim Browning said they want to implement it at other bases.

Browning said,"We are inviting our local clergy to be that missing part, if you wish. To be an off-base resource that we as a chaplain corps have a better sense of who they and what they provide."

Wade said the 21st Century Partnership is putting together a website called the Civilian Airmen Resource Exchange or C.A.R.E. It's designed to put community faith-based resources in one place, so workers can find the support they need. The site is in a test phase and has not yet launched.


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