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USAF, ROKAF chaplains host Buddhist immersion

Republic of Korea Air Force Capt. Sungcheol Lee, 38th Fighter Group chaplain, instructs U.S. and ROKAF Airmen in meditation at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 11, 2019. Chaplains sponsored a joint two-day course including guided meditation, a traditional meal, learning the basic history of Buddhism, and temple visits. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

Republic of Korea Air Force Capt. Sungcheol Lee, 38th Fighter Group chaplain, instructs U.S. and ROKAF Airmen in meditation at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 11, 2019. Chaplains sponsored a joint two-day course including guided meditation, a traditional meal, learning the basic history of Buddhism, and temple visits. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Patrick Paez, 8th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance noncommissioned officer in charge of customer service, takes a photo of the Triad Buddha Statue at Eunjeok Temple in Gunsan City, Republic of Korea, April 13, 2019. The Triad Buddha Statue was made in 1629 and reflects characteristics from the Joseon dynasty period in Korea.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Patrick Paez, 8th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance noncommissioned officer in charge of customer service, takes a photo of the Triad Buddha Statue at Eunjeok Temple in Gunsan City, Republic of Korea, April 13, 2019. The Triad Buddha Statue was made in 1629 and reflects characteristics from the Joseon dynasty period in Korea.

U.S. Air Force and Republic of Korea Air Force Airmen climb a set of stairs to Eunjeok Temple in Gunsan City, Republic of Korea, April 13, 2019. A ROKAF chaplain took Airman around to visit two different styles of Buddhist temples in the city during a two-day immersion course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

U.S. Air Force and Republic of Korea Air Force Airmen climb a set of stairs to Eunjeok Temple in Gunsan City, Republic of Korea, April 13, 2019. A ROKAF chaplain took Airman around to visit two different styles of Buddhist temples in the city during a two-day immersion course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

Republic of Korea Air Force Capt. Sungcheol Lee, 38th Fighter Group chaplain, talks about the differences between Japanese and Korean Buddhist temples at Dongguksa Temple in Gunsan City, Republic of Korea, April 13, 2019. Lee explained that the Japanese architectural style shows wood in a more natural state, while Korean style features colorful designs on the wood. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

Republic of Korea Air Force Capt. Sungcheol Lee, 38th Fighter Group chaplain, talks about the differences between Japanese and Korean Buddhist temples at Dongguksa Temple in Gunsan City, Republic of Korea, April 13, 2019. Lee explained that the Japanese architectural style shows wood in a more natural state, while Korean style features colorful designs on the wood. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

A Buddha statue rests on a pillar outside of Daeungjeon Hall of Dongguksa Temple in Gunsan City, Republic of Korea, April 13, 2019. The Dongguksa Temple was built as a temple of the Soto sect of Japanese Buddhism. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

A Buddha statue rests on a pillar outside of Daeungjeon Hall of Dongguksa Temple in Gunsan City, Republic of Korea, April 13, 2019. The Dongguksa Temple was built as a temple of the Soto sect of Japanese Buddhism. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

Republic of Korea Air Force Capt. Sungcheol Lee, 38th Fighter Group chaplain, recites a prayer before eating during a Buddhist immersion course at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 11, 2019. The meal consisted of rice, soup and sides each placed in their own bowl so Airmen could experience the flavors of the individual dishes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

Republic of Korea Air Force Capt. Sungcheol Lee, 38th Fighter Group chaplain, recites a prayer before eating during a Buddhist immersion course at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 11, 2019. The meal consisted of rice, soup and sides each placed in their own bowl so Airmen could experience the flavors of the individual dishes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

Republic of Korea Air Force Capt. Sungcheol Lee, 38th Fighter Group chaplain, pours water into a bowl for U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Diane Balmer, 8th Force Support Squadron manpower analyst, during a Buddhist immersion course at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 11, 2019. Balmer used the water to clean bowls and utensils prior to a traditional Buddhist meal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

Republic of Korea Air Force Capt. Sungcheol Lee, 38th Fighter Group chaplain, pours water into a bowl for U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Diane Balmer, 8th Force Support Squadron manpower analyst, during a Buddhist immersion course at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 11, 2019. Balmer used the water to clean bowls and utensils prior to a traditional Buddhist meal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --

The U.S. Air Force 8th Fighter Wing chaplains paired with the Republic of Korea Air Force 38th Fighter Group chaplain to host an educational Buddhist immersion course for Airmen April 11 and 13.

“We had people express interest in learning more about Buddhism, so we wanted to help facilitate that,” said Capt. Amy Bartee, 8th FW chaplain. “We have a great relationship with the ROKAF, so this immersion was a good experience for both of us.”

To kick off the course, Capt. Sungcheol Lee, 38th FG chaplain and Buddhist monk, taught U.S. Airmen about traditional Buddhist meal customs typically used by monks.

“We hope to respect our food, our culture and our nature,” said Lee. “Even when we feast ourselves with this meal, we also know that there are others around the world that starve.”

The meal consisted of rice, soup and sides each placed in their own bowls, so Airmen could experience the flavors of the separate dishes. He also taught about the customs of hiding one’s face with their bowl so no one can watch them chew, and remaining silent during the meal.

“Traditionally, you should be eating everything, but since you are practicing today, it is okay not to finish,” said Lee. “It is a key part of the Buddhist creed to not throw any food out.”

To conclude the first day of immersion activities, Airmen heard a brief history lesson and then participated in a guided meditation session.

On day two of the course, ROKAF Airmen from the 38th FG joined their U.S. counterparts on a trip to Dongguksa Temple and Eunjeok Temple, located nearby Kunsan in the neighboring town of Gunsan City.

There, Airmen learned about the distinct architectural styles present in Japanese and Korean-style Buddhist temples. Lee described that the Japanese-style Dongguksa Temple reflects a more natural representation of the wood structures, while the Korean-style Eunjeok Temple has a more highly-decorated and colorful presentation.

“It was interesting to see the contrasts between the two styles,” said Master Sgt. Walter Coles, 8th Force Support Squadron manpower superintendent. “This was a great chance for me to get out and about. Now that I know where they are, I can visit them any time.

“Partnering with ROKAF [during this immersion] was great, because we rarely get the chance to sit down and talk about our individual experiences. Being with and learning from them was the best part.”