Chaplain Lt. Col. Bruce Brewer from the Utah Air National Guard marked spiritual and physical resilience in and outside the Smoky Mountains recently, with his thoughts on hopeful leaders as well as with his heart to fitness minded adherents.
Chaplain Brewer served as the interim chaplain for the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center.
He returns to the 151st Air Refueling Wing this month and after he tended to TEC’s spiritual needs since early July. Chaplain Lt. Col. David Michaud just arrived from Maine as the new chaplain.
“I didn’t expect it to be quite the counseling demand that it has,” said Brewer, who has a doctorate in counseling psychology.
TEC produces the most NCO Academy and Airman Leadership School graduates in the U.S. Air Force, among its other missions. More than 80 regular Air Force and reserve Airmen – TEC’s staff – tend to the influx and outflow of classes.
“I think we’ll all be a little sad to say farewell to Chaplain Brewer,” said Col. Jessica Meyeraan, TEC commander. “Because he’s been such an integral part of our team from the moment he checked in.”
Chaplain Brewer visited classrooms and encouraged students to see him anytime they needed some help.
“An instructor told me yesterday, “‘I don’t know how I would do it without a chaplain,'” said Brewer. “That was nice because you don’t always know what difference that you make.”
He said that some Airmen joined him during Sunday services and spiritual studies. Other Airmen needed his help with an unforeseen crisis at home, or they had stress built up from their weeks of training. Still, others needed to unload their thoughts of past contingency efforts overseas.
“Everybody feels challenged. Their motivation and desire to better themselves and take away from this experience something that will make a difference really impressed me,” said Brewer.
There are needs and times for everybody, said Brewer. He admitted that he talks with other chaplains and leaders for his own resiliency. He parted from his wife and 11 children during this assignment as well as during past contingencies in Southwest Asia. “It’s a real balancing act, and to have someone who really, genuinely gets it is a blessing,” said Brewer.
“It’s the mission and the people here who will continue to inspire me after I return,” said Brewer. He said that his best memories are sharing fitness workouts with Airmen who sought his guidance.
Fitness provides an opportunity to connect with others, he said: “I love to run.”
Chaplain Brewer is a nine-time marathoner (PR 3:06:18) and Boston Marathon finisher. He said that there is nothing like a run or a workout to help clear anxiety. At 51, he runs a 9:49 mile and a half.
Students and staff invited him on runs, trail runs and hikes through Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains and down south in Chattanooga, Tenn. He even climbed a mountain up to the famous Rocky Top overlook.
“One of the slogans of the chaplaincy is a visible reminder of the holy,” said Brewer. “I’m showing I’m approachable, and I’m out and visible.”
Chaplain Brewer will rejoin his wing staff, which includes three chaplains and three chaplain assistants. He works full time as a counselor for the VA Vet Center.
“I wish I had time to just soak up all the curriculums before I go. There’s just some great teaching and learning going on here all the time … what is happening in the classrooms. I have not had one negative comment from a student about an instructor or a student who felt this was a waste of time. The students, when they leave, everybody feels like they benefited from this experience.”