April 13, 2012

It’s more than a job, it’s a calling

Linda Welz
452 AMW Public Affairs

He didn’t find religion as a young adult; instead, he entered into a relationship with his Lord and Savior. It was in that relationship that he felt a calling to serve others through ministry.

Chaplain Aaron Klaves is the new, full-time base chaplain, replacing Chaplain Craig Benson, whose two-year tour at March Field recently expired.

Klaves, 41, served as a Reserve chaplain on the wing staff and recently deployed to Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa, for six months. He has also served as a civilian pastor and hopes to fill that role again in the future. But, he wasn’t always so grounded in his faith.

As a youth, Klaves was floundering, had no direction, didn’t know what he wanted in life. That was his low point, he said.

“I felt that, over time, God revealed things to me and showed me what He wanted me to do,” he said. “He gave me a direction.”

That’s when Klaves’ world view changed. He knew he was called to serve in the ministry.

“Knowing is half the battle in life. That’s sort of my motto,” Klaves said. “That makes all the difference in the world. If you don’t know, it just makes everything so much more difficult.”

One of his responsibilities in ministry here is to help Team March members know how to deal with difficult issues.

The core issue with Airmen today seems to be family concerns due to the stresses of deployment, Klaves said. He talks with many young, uniformed men and women and civilian contractors who are not prepared for deployment or for the separation of six months or more. They don’t have a plan for unexpected events that happen in life, he said. The car may break down, the toilet or sink may break or other issues may arise.

“You can’t plan for every little thing that may pop up in life,” he said. “But you can have a certain framework in place so when something does happen at least you have a basic understanding of who’s going to do what; how it’s going to look.”

Not having a plan equals stress and many times these stressors snowball.  Not having a financial framework in place, such as an emergency fund set aside for an unplanned financial issue that comes up, can trigger stress, he said. Add to that, the friction caused by one member being deployed and not being there for the other, coupled with the feeling of loneliness or abandonment and the problem may escalate out of control.

Klaves’ advice to prepare for deployment is to start early, start now, he said. Think about roles and responsibilities. Who is going to do what while the member is deployed? Where are you going to find support when you are separated by half a planet? Do you have somebody that you can go to?

“The best advice I can give a couple is think it through and have some sort of understanding about how you are going to live life away from each other for six months,” Klaves said. “Communication is huge.”

Have something in place when things get difficult, because things will get difficult, he said. Have some sort of support structure, whether it be a family member, a friend, a chaplain, rabbi, priest or pastor. Have somebody you can go to and possibly unload some heavy stuff. Planning gives you a framework, an outline, an understanding of what the two of you will do if something unpredictable happens, Klaves added.

Consider discussing redeployment because the whole role-reversal issue is big. The problem is, when members return from a deployment it’s normal for them to expect to resume the roles and responsibilities they had in the home and family before they were deployed. So often, those who remain at home have filled those roles and taken care of those responsibilities successfully, making it difficult to just give it up because the deployment is over, Klaves said.

In addition to roles and responsibilities, if you have been away from someone for six months, you have to get to know them all over again. People change and experience different things during the deployments, kids especially. Some children are happy when the deployed parent returns, others are angry that the parent left and some don’t even remember them when they return.

It takes time, patience and understanding to re-integrate. Relationships need to be re-established, he said.

“I highly recommend the Yellow Ribbon briefings and seminars for everyone facing deployments. The program has come a long way,”

Klaves said. “There are many families who are prepared. They are matured, have established roles within the household, they know how to solve problems so everything at the Yellow Ribbon Programs may not be for them, but there’s always touch-ups and refreshers they can use.”

Klaves invites everyone to visit him at the base chapel. His door is always open for each of you, regardless of your faith. It’s his calling.

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