Appreciation much more than virtual
A pandemic couldn’t stop the annual Air Force chaplains’ national conference and dinner.
With quick thinking and innovative use of technology, the activity was conducted virtually from August 31 to September 2.
The Directorate of Air Force Events assisted the chaplain branch to hold the dinner via virtual means, hosted by Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld and his wife, Lou, from their home in Canberra.
Director General Chaplaincy – Air Force, Principal Air Chaplain Mark Willis said the conference and dinner was an opportunity for chaplains to build camaraderie and sharpen their skills.
“This is an important annual forum to ensure the Chief’s intent for Air Force chaplaincy remains on track,” Chaplain Willis said.
“It also gives me an opportunity to encourage the branch and it provides a national forum for all chaplains to align, share, network and learn.
“The virtual dinner was the first Air Force event of its kind held in an international context and it also marked our 80th anniversary as a branch, so the dinner was history-making for both of those reasons.”
The dinner featured a heartfelt message of encouragement and appreciation from Air Marshal Hupfeld, with all chaplains receiving a certificate of acknowledgement for their outstanding support to Operation Bushfire Assist.
The certificates featured a colour print of an original acrylic painting by Chaplain Gary Whelband to honour their direct support and behind-the-scenes ministry.
Chaplain Willis and his wife, Lisa, Warrant Officer of the Air Force Fiona Grasby and undergraduate student nurse Pilot Officer Luke Williams joined Air Marshal Hupfeld and his wife for the dinner in Canberra.
Air Force chaplains from as far away as the Middle East region participated virtually, with the technology ensuring all members could participate.
Deputy Director Air Force Events Olivia Hannan said managing the attendance of 65 chaplains as well as guests via a video-call platform was a little challenging.
“With so many chaplains participating, from all states and territories across all three Australian time zones, it was initially a challenge to coordinate their simultaneous arrival,” Ms Hannan said.
“But we made it work and we were glad to be a part of delivering the event in such a novel way.”