JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --
Since the summer of 2022, Airmen in the 715th Air Mobility Operations Group, headquartered at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, have had an extra set of resources to help them cope and thrive: A True North religious support team.
Chaplain Christina Norman and Tech. Sgt. Andrew Winter have their work cut out for them, serving the 715th AMOG’s three geographically separated squadrons. The duo supports the 723d Air Mobility Squadron at JBER, the 734th Air Mobility Squadron at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam and the 735th Air Mobility Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.
“All of our squadrons are very isolated, and they all have unique issues,” Norman said. “But we’ve been able to make it out to all our locations, and we’re getting a regular rotation in place. People are getting to know us.”
True North is a U.S. Air Force resilience program that assigns mental health providers and religious support teams directly to units, giving service members, DoD civilians, and their authorized dependents increased access to care. In-unit services include: education and team building activities, resources and referrals, mental health counseling, and confidential spiritual counseling.
The 715th AMOG True North team currently does not include mental health providers, only a religious support team.
Norman emphasized that they’re not in place to “peddle religion” — rather, they provide Airmen with confidential counsel, help address relationship issues and assist with the feelings of isolation that often come with serving in an overseas location.
The team’s offices are collocated with the 732d AMS. And unlike other religious support teams or chaplains that serve an entire base community, Norman and Winter are dedicated specifically to the three squadrons.
“Chaplain Norman and Tech. Sgt. Winter provide a tremendous service to our squadrons,” said Col. Wayne Manuel, 715th AMOG commander. “The team hit the ground running and has already visited each location multiple times to build relationships and learn each unit’s mission, challenges, and unique circumstances. We’re already receiving great feedback about the program from both Airmen and squadron leadership. The units want to see the True North team as often as possible.”
In addition to providing counsel and support to individual Airmen, the team provides training opportunities, with a menu of options for squadron commanders to choose from. Norman said she and Winter have previously led training on professional email communication, the five languages of workplace communication, and more.
As the program expands, the team hopes to schedule events at the squadrons’ various locations.
Overall, Norman hopes that her group’s Airmen, regardless of religious ideology, will feel comfortable coming to her and Winter for assistance.
Her message to those who are thinking of seeking a chaplain’s help: “Just do it!”
“Our whole reason for existing is to support Airmen,” Norman said. “You’re never a burden. You can call us at any time of the day or night.”