Chaplain deploys to the Land WAAAAY Down Under

By Tech. Sgt. Jake Meyer
190th Public Affairs

A simple email can set you on an unexpected journey.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Kevin Hopkins, 190th Air Refueling Wing chaplain, received an email saying the Air Force was in need of a chaplain to deploy in support of Operation Deep Freeze in McMurdo, Antarctica. He responded and soon found himself traveling to Antarctica to the Chapel of the Snows, where he would act as the chaplain to everyone stationed there.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Kevin Hopkins, 190th Air Refueling Wing, stands outside the Chapel of the Snow, where he provided spiritual counseling and comfort in the bitter cold of Antarctica. (Photo provided)

Hopkins soon found the location and season presented some extra challenges for his calling.

“The depression they faced down there because of the 24 hours of daylight made my counseling sessions high,” Hopkins said. “Their sleep patterns are all messed up and they never really sensed it was nighttime.”

Not only was the mission out of the ordinary, his surroundings were as well. Every day, Hopkins would see penguins, seals and killer whales, yet it was mandatory to respect the wildlife because approaching, touching or moving wildlife is a punishable offense in Antarctica. This resulted in a few occasions where the flight line would be at a standstill because everybody had to wait on penguin traffic.

“You’re not supposed to get near them,” said Hopkins. “At one point, I had one coming towards me really fast and I had to run away from it. I just said, ‘Don’t touch me, don’t touch me!’”

After returning to Kansas from his deployment, Hopkins said it was a thrilling experience and he highly recommend it for anyone, if opportunity arises. At the time, the weather was a balmy 30 degrees, which was higher than Kansas temperature and the scenery is breathtaking, he said.

Of all the people Hopkins met on his deployment, one person took him by surprise once he realized she was a Grammy Award-winning pop artist and environmental activist.

“Part of my job was to be chaplain to New Zealand defense forces,” he said. “I sat down at the table and with these young people and this nice young lady introduced herself as Ella. One person said later, ‘Did you have nice lunch with Lorde?’ and I didn’t know what they meant.”

“My response immediately was, ‘I am a chaplain, I have lunch with the Lord every day,’” he said. “But the person said, ‘No, that was Lorde, the pop singer from New Zealand.’”

“A week later she sat down and said, “Hi, chaplain. Hi, it’s me, Ella. Do you remember me?’ I said, ‘Yes, but now I know who you are,’” Hopkins laughed.