HomeMediaArticle Display

176th Wing Religious Support Team helps by building bridges

176th Wing Religious Support Team helps by building bridges

Alaska Air National Guard Chaplain (Maj.) Bradford Burns is the full-time chaplain for 176th Wing. The 176th Wing Religious Support Team comprises three chaplains and three religious affairs Airmen, and provides services for all religious faiths. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by David Bedard/Released)


The 176th Wing Religious Support Team, comprising three chaplains and three enlisted religious affairs Airmen, is an integral part of the 176th Wing Wellness Center.

Full-time Chaplain (Maj.) Bradford Burns said the RST provides access or can coordinate access for all wing members to religious services for all faiths.

“A lot of our job is to walk around and create relationships (Unit Visitation),” he said. “Many people see a chaplain, and they think strictly religion. That’s not the case.”

According to Air Force instructions, RSTs provide for the First Amendment right of freedom of religion, and they also advise leadership on matters of faith, ethics and moral decision making. 

“The Chaplain Corps mission statement is, ‘While serving as a visible reminder of the Holy, the Air Force Chaplain Corps provides spiritual care and the opportunity for Air Force members and their families to exercise their constitutional right to freedom of religion,” Burns said. “Chaplain’s core capabilities are spiritual care and to advise leadership.”

Burns said the secret sauce to his outreach efforts are his Religious Affairs Airmen like Master Sgt. Bethany Marcum. He said she is able to approach enlisted Guardsmen who may be struggling but don’t feel comfortable talking to an officer about their problems.

“We make relationships with people so that they realize we are here to come alongside them,” he said. “Any struggle anybody may have in their hearts – anything that makes them not be a spiritually whole person, we will counsel them and work them through it in accordance with their faith tradition or in accordance with their no-faith tradition.”

Of course, as a member of the clergy holding an advanced degree in theological studies, Burns offers a wide range of religious services to all faiths including pre-marital counseling, weddings, marital counseling and baptisms, to name a few.

“Any religious rite afforded in the civilian side is afforded in the National Guard,” Burns said. “We provide the service or provide for the service.”

Burns said he doesn’t pretend to have the knowledge or the capability to personally and directly provide for all faiths. However, he has access to a broad network of chaplains on the base as well as clergy outside the gates representing dozens of religious traditions. 

Burns also helps Airmen with religious accommodations such as religious adherents who are required to wear a beard. He meets with the Airman, evaluates the need, and works with the command to provide for the allowance.

As a member of the wing commander’s special staff, one of Burns’ duties is to advise commanders, senior enlisted advisors and superintendents. He said he advises leaders on everything from making moral decisions involving tough situations to ethically administering discipline.

“Sometimes, they have a hard time balancing that, and they need a safe place and a sounding board to do that,” he said.

Undergirding that safe place is the doctrine of privileged communication, which is extended to anyone who comes to a chaplain in confidence. Burns said the principle is absolute, whereas there are some confidential limitations when talking to military law or psychological health professionals.

He said absolute confidentiality is especially helpful when a wing member has been the victim of a crime and wants to talk about it with someone without fear the incident being reported without their consent.

Burns said the RST stands ready to help all wing members find wellness and balance.

“I’m not here to convert you; I’m here to help you with who you are, where you are, and how you want to get it done,” he said. “Whatever that means to you, that’s how we do it. Internally, I know the best way is something faith-based, but that’s not to say that if people work hard, they can’t master communication and other skills that help them in life.”

For questions about the RST or to schedule an appointment, call (907) 551-1049 or email bradford.burns.3@us.af.mil.

USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.