SPIRE volunteers attend leadership training

Academy chaplains and local representatives of various faith groups attended Special Program in Religious Education training Aug. 4 at the Sijan Hall Oasis to help encourage religious respect and allow cadets to freely exercise their faith. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Academy chaplains and local representatives of various faith groups attended Special Program in Religious Education training Aug. 4 at the Sijan Hall Oasis to help encourage religious respect and allow cadets to freely exercise their faith. (U.S. Air Force photo)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Academy chaplains and local representatives of various faith groups attended Special Program in Religious Education training Aug. 4 at the Sijan Hall Oasis to help encourage religious respect and allow cadets to freely exercise their faith.

About 60 volunteers from Buddhist, Earth-Centered, Greek Orthodox, Jewish, Latter Day Saints, Catholic and Protestant groups gathered to review leadership guidelines and sign a SPIRE Memorandum of Agreement before working with cadets.

"The volunteers are like tentacles of the chapel," said Chaplain (Capt.) Amber Kiesel, SPIRE deputy director. "They help cadets become men and women with Air Force core values and allow them to exercise their first amendment right. They mentor cadets, hold religious education nights, prayer meditation nights, worship services and more."

The annual training is mandatory for volunteers, who are each approved by the Cadet Wing chaplain. Groups who regularly meet at the Academy include Youth With A Mission, Campus Crusade for Christ and Reformed University Fellowship.

SPIRE events take place Monday evenings for the religiously diverse cadet population. Religious literature shared with cadets must be vetted through the Wing chaplain's office. Guest speakers, ads and visitors must also be approved by the chaplain.

"Respect is essential to mission success," said Jimmy Covey, assistant director of SPIRE. "It is our expectation that each volunteer who attended the training understands and will show mutual respect toward all people, whether they're people of a particular faith or people of non-faith. I also believe that each one in attendance left with an understanding of, and a commitment to, the MOA under which we operate."

SPIRE promotes the Air Force core values and assists cadets in becoming leaders of character by facilitating their spiritual formation, according to SPIRE training material.

"It's important that the chaplain have this venue to address not only the issues of respect but also the issues of security and compliance to Defense Department guidelines," Covey said. "It is imperative that the volunteers apprehend and comply with pertinent policies and guidance."