Leadership of the 412th Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., announced Sept. 10, 2021, a partnership with the Civil Air Patrol to provide more chaplains to the wing and to test a new virtual reality-based counseling platform at Edwards.
“At Edwards we test aircraft and equipment, and now we will test the chaplains and software,” said Col. Randel Gordon, 412th TW vice commander.
Gordon met with leaders from the California Wing of CAP to mark the announcement. The partnership is test program both organizations hope to be replicated between other Air Force bases and CAP Wings to exemplify the “Total Force” concept.
“When this came up, I was like ‘Wow,’ I never even imagined that we could do that,” said Gordon, a former CAP member himself. “I thought it worked out really well. When we say ‘total force,’ we really mean that…it’s all one of the same, all the way through.”
The partnership allows the CAP to provide their chaplains to the base. As the auxiliary to the Air Force, CAP provides emergency services support to local and national agencies. The CAP also provides aerospace education and cadet program opportunities.
“What’s really unique about this is, from the chaplain’s side; it’s a human design that we haven’t done before,” said Maj.Michael Morison, California Wing Chaplain, CAP. “Multiple chaplains embedded in the RSP (Religious Support Plan) and on the software side, bringing a new pastoral software into it; we’re really pleased to be a part of this whole thing.”
The current wing chaplains are excited for the partnership to augment their staff. Chaplain allocations are based on the number of uniformed Airmen on an installation, without taking into account the number of civilians assigned to it, according to Capt. Wilson Joa Yu, a 412th TW chaplain.
Joa Yu added that the new partnership will also benefit chaplains professionally.
“What I’m looking forward to is gleaning off of their experience as they did their ministry, as they served Civil Air Patrol folks,” Joa Yu said.
The newly-announced pastoral software will allow Airmen and civilians to access their chaplains from anywhere and in an anonymous manner if wanted. The software platform is developed by Even Health and is called “Third Room.” The platform is a virtual space using virtual reality to provide spiritual and non-spiritual counseling and on-demand experiences in prayer, meditation, and mental resilience training, according to David Black, Even Health co-founder and CEO. Additionally it also able to provide users to chaplains in an anonymous environment using on-screen avatars.
Black was on hand to provide training for the Third Room. Even Health’s involvement began as an AFWERX Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project and has now entered the test phase.
“They wanted to bring in this new initiative, and launch something new, and test it and so being part of that is exciting,” said Capt. Annamae Taubeneck, Squadron 10 Chaplain, CAWG, CAP, and also one of the new Edwards AFB chaplain augmentees.
“What better place to test it than Edwards? I mean this is the testing ground for all of the Air Force, this is the place to be,” Taubeneck said.