“Janice, I greet you as a new Chaplain. I encourage you to be an example to all in the values of the Australian Defence Force – professionalism, loyalty, integrity, courage, innovation and teamwork.”

This was the charge I gave to Janice McWhinney on the day of her induction into the RAAF.

These values, coupled with the Air Force’s values of respect, excellence, agility and dedication, strongly resonate with our vocational and personal aspirations.

Over the past six months Chaplain McWhinney has had the privilege of working as a base support Specialist Reserve Chaplain at RAAF Williams, and more recently as a full time Chaplain at RAAF base, Edinburgh.

Working in this new environment, experiencing a new culture and learning a new language continue to present many challenges.

On the one hand, moving from the role of congregational minister (in my experience a place of great safety and knowing), to a place of massive ‘unknowns’ has exposed her vulnerability and yet, at the same time, strangely provides for the basic needs of security, safety and belonging.

For the first time in many years of ministry Janice is part of a family and a team. Supportive team members with a great deal of experience and knowledge surround her and she has someone to share a ritual coffee break with every morning. 

In so many intense and heart-rending experiences while training and serving in the role, Janice remembers standing on the ‘hallowed’ parade ground reciting the Airman’s Code: 

“I am an Australian Airman, I inherit a proud tradition.
I follow in the footsteps of many fine Australians. Their legacy is my future.
I am an Australian Airman, the air is our domain. I strive for excellence in all that I do, to protect the skies, our country and the land that I love.
I am an Australian airman; I live for my family, work with my mates, support my community, and fight for my nation.
I am a valued member of the Air Force team.
I do what is right, I am an Australian Airman.”

There’s some truth to the old saying, “God leaves the best placement to the last stage in your life cycle,” after all.

Rev. Dr Murray Earl is a Uniting Church Australian Defence Force chaplain and a member of the ADF’s Religious Advisory Committee.

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