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Arizona chaplain ensures religious freedom for deployed servicemembers

SOUTHWEST ASIA – Chaplain (Maj.) Laura Adelia, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, speaks during a sermon at the Seven Sands Chapel July 19. Chaplain Adelia is deployed from 162nd Fighter Wing, Arizona Air National Guard, Tucson, Ariz., and hails from Phoenix Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Stephen Linch)

SOUTHWEST ASIA – Chaplain (Maj.) Laura Adelia, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, speaks during a sermon at the Seven Sands Chapel July 19. Chaplain Adelia is deployed from the 162nd Fighter Wing, Arizona Air National Guard, Tucson, Ariz., and hails from Phoenix. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Stephen Linch)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- According to the Air Force Chaplain Corps web site, chaplains provide ministry to persons of their own faith group, yet also act as guardians of the free exercise of religion. 

Arizona Air National Guard Chaplain (Maj.) Laura Adelia, a member of the 162nd Fighter Wing in Tucson, Ariz., is doing just that as the deployed 380th Air Expeditionary Wing's protestant chaplain overseeing the Church of Christ, the Contemporary, the Gospel and the Protestant Liturgical services by allowing and empowering people to exercise their religious freedom.

"As a protestant Chaplain in the Air Force, I am in charge of all the Protestant services, even the ones that I am not real familiar with because of my back ground," said Chaplain Adelia.

When she first showed up, the Gospel service had eight people in the audience.

"I led the service, even though I am not of a Gospel style tradition," Chaplain Adelia said. "That is what we chaplains must do at times... stretch our comfort zone."

The Gospel service is more spirited, lively with "hallelujahs," she added.

"That's not my background," she said with a spirited laugh.

She wasn't on her own for long. Within a couple of weeks of serving as the wing's protestant chaplain, two licensed ministers asked if they could help with the service.

Master Sgt. Darryl Harris, 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron and Tech. Sgt. Brenson Hardy, 380th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, helped the chaplain drastically increase service attendance.

"The service just exploded," Chaplain Adelia said. "To have a service go from eight to 70 people in eight weeks just doesn't happen."

There were so many people, the chapel's air conditioning couldn't keep up, she added.

"This service was blessed," she said. "Instead of trying to control them, I was like... you tell me what you need, because I am here to serve you. It is not about me; it is about you."

That is exactly what she did, putting the Gospel service into the hands of the people, and for this they are thankful.

"She is a woman of God," said Sergeant Harris. "She has a heart for the people of God and continues to strive towards a closer relationship with the Lord for herself."

"I am grateful that God has sent Chaplin Adelia here," he added.

For Chaplain Adelia it's all about the honor of serving people and praising God.

"It is so wonderful to empower the people to share their gifts and be so well received, as well as serve the people here glorifying God in so many ways," said the chaplain. "I know I can't be everything to everybody, but it's a wonderful job to have to be able to serve."