Senior Leadership briefed on new religious accommodation instruction

A photo of Airmen standing in a room.

Base, Squadron, and Group Commanders along with other members attend an informational breakfast hosted by the Chapel at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, July 30, 2021. The purpose of this breakfast was to inform commanders about the new changes in AFI 52-201. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Vaughn Weber)

A photo of a speaker presenting slides.

Base, Squadron, and Group Commanders along with other members attend an informational breakfast hosted by the Chapel at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, July 30, 2021. Chaplain Leonard goes through slides, and answers questions about the new policies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Vaughn Weber)

A photo of a speaker reading notes

Base, Squadron, and Group Commanders along with other members attend an informational breakfast hosted by the Chapel at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, July 30, 2021. This is a brand new instruction that did not exist previously and there is a learning curve associated with it which is the main reason for the implementation of the Religious Resolution Teams. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Vaughn Weber)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. --

Base leadership from various organizations attended a briefing on the new religious accommodation guidance at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, July 30, 2021.

The purpose of the meeting was to inform senior leaders on how they can best support their Airmen and provide them with the resources on how to acquire religious accommodation. The 355th Wing Chaplain Corps did this by briefing the new Air Force Instruction 52-201, Religious Freedom in the Department of the Air Force.

“Our chapel team is trying to ensure senior leaders understand this AFI so they can utilize it and support our Airmen in the best way possible,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Jason Gunnels, 355th Deputy Wing chaplain. “It also allows senior leaders to be more involved with the process of getting a religious accommodation for their Airmen.”

This process ensures a new way to protect the Airmen’s religious needs. This involves the Religious Resolution Team looking through the Airmen’s request, and discussing resolutions on religious accommodation at the local-level with the unit commander.

“It’s helpful for a commander to have a whole team dedicated to providing information and options to help Airmen,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Frederick, 563rd Operations Support Squadron commander. “Navigating through the religious accommodation process can be complex and having this new RRT, we can get resolution on our Airmen’s questions and requests faster with the various agencies all together.”   

The RRT works with unit commanders and includes a representative from the Chaplain Corps, Judge Advocate Generals, Public Affairs Office, and sometimes a medical provider, along with a few other helping agencies depending on the case. They are involved with the process to help make a decision based on the Airmen’s request and make sure the Airman’s religious needs are being met.

“This is a brand new instruction that did not previously exist and there is a learning curve associated with it,” Gunnels said. “The implementation of the RRT aims to help adjust this learning curve, and provide guidance to leaders and how they can help.”

The goal of the RRT is to provide senior leadership with another tool when it comes to helping their Airmen with religious accommodation.

This is just one of the ways the Air Force and DM are creating a culture of inclusion, and thus developing resilient and capable Airmen ready to perform the rescue and attack mission.