Making a difference: Chaplain warms hearts, strengthens morale

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Ian Matson
  • Buckley Garrison Public Affairs

Chaplain (Maj.) Bob Stone, a chaplain with the 136th Airlift Wing, arrived at the remote location of Clear Air Force Station, Alaska on Oct. 18, 2020. Following quarantine, the jubilant Stone immediately began executing his mission, taking care of Team Clear. The team consists of three squadrons; the 13th Space Warning Squadron under the U.S. Space Force and the Alaska Air National Guard's 213th Space Warning Squadron, and 268th Security Forces Squadron.

In the sub-arctic environment of Clear AFS, a chaplain’s specialty is essential. With temperatures that stay at 40 degrees below zero regularly, minimal sunlight during shortened days coupled with little to no opportunities to walk outside for a breath of fresh air, individuals are at an increased risk for experiencing feelings of isolation and depression.

Stone was instrumental in helping all on Clear AFS during the hard holiday season away from home and loved ones with cooking dinners, putting on movie nights, and weekly worship services. He would also provide one-on-one mentoring, counseling, and religious study sessions. It was no secret at Clear AFS that Stone was always available and welcoming to everyone any time of day.

Another part of his job is discussing and implementing ways to improve the quality of life of members stationed at Clear AFS and ensuring personnel can get out-and-about, especially during the winter months, to enjoy what Alaska has to offer. Stone led members from Clear AFS, including the two Royal Canadian Air Force members embedded with the 13th SWS, on an overland expedition to cross the mighty Yukon River and the Arctic Circle. After arriving there, they stayed in a rustic log cabin and were able to see the breathtaking Northern Lights. He also led others in a variety of adventurous activities, such as snowshoeing in Denali National Park, riding the world-famous Aurora Winter Train through the heart of the Alaska Range, traversing the 11,500 acres of Clear AFS to the Nenana River on a snow machine, and of course experiencing firsthand Alaska's official state sport of dog mushing.

Stone’s charismatic leadership was on full display during every event, and his humility was second to none. Throughout his time at Clear AFS he would visit members on shift regularly. At any given moment, one might find Stone standing with a defender at an entry control point, or sitting amongst a firefighter on dispatch, or perhaps in the Missile Warning Operations Center dropping off some barbeque for the two lone Guardian’s on the midnight watch. It is the on-going, space-related operations that impressed him the most.

During a visit to the Upgraded Early Warning Radar, Stone said, "The mission here is amazing, just going into some of the buildings can feel like I am in a movie and seeing the members doing their space mission is inspiring."

His actions during his time at Clear AFS have warmed the hearts and brighten the days of many.

Stone departed Clear AFS on Jan. 2, 2021, and flew back to his family in Orlando, Florida. The temperature leaving was only 8 degrees below zero and, when he landed, he was greeted by a sun-filled sky and a suppressing 81-degree heatwave!

The culmination of Stone’s three months at Clear AFS set the cornerstone for building the foundation for an enduring full-time chaplain corps. It provides Guardians and Airmen the tools they will need to be more resilient physically, emotionally, and spiritually while serving away from home at the remote outpost of Clear AFS, Alaska.