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1st Buddhist chaplain meditates on future

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The U.S. Air Force is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year with the theme of Breaking Barriers, highlighting how far it’s come since 1947. Although every aspect of the USAF has been improved over that time, there are still no signs of slowing down.

In fact, Chaplain (1st Lt.) Brett Campbell, 460th Space Wing Buddhist chaplain, broke a barrier just this year by becoming the Air Force’s first and only Buddhist Chaplain.

“There’s only one,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Robert Ward, 460th Space Wing chaplain. “In all of the Guard, the Reserves and in all of Active Duty, there is only one Buddhist chaplain in the Air Force and he’s right here with us. How awesome is that?”

Born in a small town in Iowa, Campbell was raised as a devout Catholic for the majority of his life. It wasn’t until college that he discovered Buddhism.

“I was studying philosophy for my undergraduate degree,” said Campbell. “From that, I specifically became really interested in meditation, which led me into Eastern philosophies. I picked up a random book on Buddhism, read that, and it really spoke to me; I began doing more research and I’ve enjoyed it since.”

After graduating from Iowa State University, his interest in Buddhism continued to grow and he eventually decided to make a career out of it.

When I was applying for graduate school, I started to look into what chaplaincy really was and what exactly they do, said Campbell. Actually, that’s when I decided to join the Air Force; the military aspect of chaplaincy really stuck out to me.

Brand new to the military and not completely finished with his schooling yet, Chaplain Campbell is excited and ready to start his services.

“I’m going to have my first Buddhist meeting May 25th, and I’m excited to see how people react to it,” said the Iowa native. “Right now, I think I’m more of a curiosity to people. People are fascinated by things that are different, and most people just have a very vague idea of what Buddhism is.”

Campbell would like to make it clear that just because he’s a Buddhist chaplain, and will host Buddhist meetings, anyone and everyone is welcome to attend.

“These services will be for anyone to join,” said Campbell. “I’ll give a Buddhist philosophy in the beginning of each meeting but I will also teach basic mindfulness meditation. In no way am I trying to change anyone’s religious belief; I just believe that aspects of Buddhism and meditation can benefit everyone, regardless of your religion.”

Although his services haven’t started, Team Buckley has already been very welcoming to him. Chaplain Ward and the chaplain team on Buckley Air Force Base are excited to have him join the team.

“The Chaplain Corps is supposed to reflect the population we serve,” said Ward. “We don’t serve an all Christian, all Jewish, all Muslim or an all catholic population; we serve everyone. It’s outstanding that we’ve been blessed with Chaplain Campbell to better serve our population here.”

With only a few months of training left, Campbell is motivated to assist as many people as possible in any way he can.

“I think that me being here really shows the Air Force is truly open to diversity,” said Campbell. “When you bring multiple ideas into a group, that group can only benefit from it. That’s exactly what I plan on bringing to Team Buckley. “
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