LAS VEGAS — A group of Roman Catholic priests gathered at the Creech Airman Ministry Center to celebrate Mass for Air Force members during the “Come Be With Us” tour June 11.
The tour presents an opportunity to recruit civilian Roman Catholic priests and chaplain candidates in order to fill staff shortages in this career field.
The entire Chaplain Corps is comprised of 475 members; only 64 of which are Roman Catholic Priests. The current need for priests in the Air Force is about 120.
“When I joined the Air Force in 1989, there were 205 active-duty priests,” said Father John Kinney, U.S. Air Force Chaplain Corps accessions director. “Part of the problem we are experiencing isn’t only in the military; the decline is at a national level. All of the faith groups are an aging clergy.”
With manning at only 50 percent, it is important for chaplain recruiters to expose civilian priests to military culture, which is why they tour Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases.
“The two bases are close together but have very different environments,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Laserian Nwoga, U.S. Air Force Catholic recruiter. “The bases give civilians with little or no military exposure a small taste of typical (continental United States) bases and deployed location environments.”
There are six faith groups in the military, which include Jewish, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Latter Day Saints, Protestant and Eastern Christian Orthodox. Each chaplain can support any member directly or indirectly through faith.
“The difference between the two is that any chaplain can accommodate members outside of their denomination because of freedom of religion,” Kinney said. “However, chaplains can only perform religious services under their endorsed religion or faith.”
Kinney said making the commitment to serve is not any easy task, but becoming a chaplain is something to be very proud of. In addition to interfaith ministry, chaplains are also trusted agents who help advise military leadership and provide other services like confidential communication for service members.
“Taking on the role of a chaplain is more than just another job, it is a higher calling,” he said. “It is for God and country and putting your life on the line for that mission.”
For more information about becoming a chaplain, call 1-800-803-2452 or visit the Air Force chaplain corps website at http://www.airforce.com/chaplain/.