My return from an active duty tour

  • Published
  • By Ch. (Maj.) Daniel Wilton
  • 182nd Airlift Wing Chaplain Corps

Greetings, 182nd family! It has been several months since I have seen or communicated with many of you. For six months, I had the opportunity to serve alongside our active duty Airmen and Guardians at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson (JBER) in Anchorage, Alaska. It was an amazing opportunity and adventure.

The Air National Guard Chaplain Corps has seen a recent increase in MPA (military personnel appropriation) tour requests coming from our active duty bases. Generally, this means an active duty chaplain has been deployed, and the impacted Wing has access to MPA dollars to bring in another chaplain as a backfill. Many different career fields have MPA opportunities. Here are a few thoughts about my recent MPA experience and how I believe it has grown me as an Airman.

After praying about it with my family and considering its implications on my civilian job, I put my name in the hat to be considered for the JBER tour from July 8, 2021, to Jan. 4, 2022. I was notified a week later that the Pacific Air Forces Chaplain Corps had selected me. I was headed to The Last Frontier! Little did I know how much work was in store to get me there. My orders wouldn’t be finalized until 15 days before I was supposed to report for duty.

I have deployed, like so many of our 182nd family. However, I am not prior active duty. There are plenty of military acronyms and processes that I am still unaware of. I had never had a Permanent Change of Station or needed to ship my Privately Owned Vehicle. I had never lived on-base with my family or reported directly to a group commander. This MPA tour was a crash course in all of those things. I want to thank our Wing leadership for the opportunity to grow as a chaplain and leader. I also want to thank all of our amazing folks in the 182nd Comptroller Flight, Traffic Management Office and at the Wing for going many extra miles to mentor me and assist me with my required paperwork. Amazingly, it all worked out.

I arrived in Alaska on time, had a home to move into on base and was able to borrow a vehicle until mine arrived. I had to be proactive, creative and adaptive to jump into my active duty role, but I also grew through the process. I experienced the grace of many as they realized I had come to Alaska as a volunteer to help. I was also fortunate that my unit, the 673nd Mission Support Group, advocated for my family to stay on-base with me. I flew them up to Alaska, and together we experienced military life in new ways that brought about growth in all of us.

I have many stories and lessons learned from my time at JBER. However, for the sake of brevity, I will highlight this: The training and experiences as a 182nd Defender of Freedom—as well as my civilian professional experiences—helped me show up ready to contribute and advance the mission. I wasn’t just keeping a seat warm. As the men and women of the Air National Guard, we’re trained to the same standards and capacities as the rest of the Total Force. However, I observed that more people were impacted by how I worked than what I worked at.

I think this is where the Total Force benefits the most from the experience we can contribute. We’re volunteers who have equity in both the civilian and military worlds, and because of this we are able to bring best practices to the table for consideration. In the end, we have a Guard family to come back home to that will treat us right and keep us in the fight.

If you ever have an opportunity to serve an MPA tour, I would encourage you to give it strong consideration. There is much to learn from our Total Force brothers- and sisters-in-arms, and how we can contribute our passion for integrity, service, and excellence. Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions about my time in Alaska. I’d be thrilled to show you pictures and share a few stories.