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Wing chaplain's office helps Operation Iron Angel fly

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Julia Sorber
  • 193 SOW
Thousands of members of the Pennsylvania National Guard were stationed throughout the Philadelphia region Sept. 26 -28, to manage crowds, maintain emergency routes and support security efforts for Pope Francis' first-ever visit to the United States.

Two such volunteers came from the 193rd Special Operations Wing chaplain's office in Middletown, Pennsylvania, who worked with a special group of Pennsylvania National Guardsmen, Army and Air Force, as part of the Homeland Response Force, whose mission is to provide support to local authorities in the event of any type of incident.

"One of the reasons that I joined the guard is because I wanted to help if there was a disaster or crisis at home," said Staff Sgt. Joshua S. March, chaplains assistant at the 193rd SOW. "I was excited to be a part of this because I felt like I was doing my part as National Guardsman - being on standby for our people and our citizens."

The presence of Department of Defense personnel was intended to enhance overall security efforts and through unique capabilities like chaplaincy.  March was integral in organizing and guiding where the chaplains were to be sent and where they were needed if crisis was to occur. 

"I never before considered what a tremendous undertaking it is to ensure a successful and safe visit of the Pope to the United States," said 193rd SOW Chaplain John B. Bateman, pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Gettysburg. "For months I have been training and working with HRF and we were prepared for anything."

The equipment for Operation Iron Angel was packed and the Guardsmen were staged and prepared to move to Philadelphia at a moment's notice to assist them in dealing with any type of occurrence.

"It was exciting to know that, while not physically near the Holy Father, I was doing my part to ensure a safe and successful pastoral visit for Pope Francis," said Bateman.  

Bateman noted that he loves being part of the Air National Guard and feels privileged to have this additional responsibility as part of the HRF, ministering to the Airmen and Soldiers and ready to provide whatever spiritual and pastoral care he can to God's people in moments of struggle or crisis. 

"Wearing two different uniforms is a blessing and a responsibility, and I am grateful that both God and Country have called me into this type of service for God's people," said Bateman.