By David Smelser
My call to ministry in 1979 was to be a Chaplain.
I started seminary two years later and was endorsed by the Chaplain’s Commission of the Home Mission Board to be an Air Force Chaplain Candidate in 1983. After graduation and being ordained to serve a church, I applied to the HMB and was endorsed to become a REAL Chaplain.
The SBC’s conflict was bothersome to me, but I continued to serve as a Chaplain, continuing in the military and then becoming endorsed to serve in Corrections. I trekked on until 2004. I retired from the Air Force Reserve, and I was wondering about whether I should serve in ministry. Then my brother, who was a Reserve Advisor to Civil Air Patrol (“CAP”), suggested that I join CAP as a Chaplain!
I heeded his advice and became a CAP Chaplain.
I later found work as a Correctional Chaplain, which I did for eight more years. I retired due to health reasons in 2014, but I continued serving in CAP as a Chaplain.
My service in CAP has stretched out now to almost 18 years. I have served as a CAP in the Mississippi, Texas, and Alabama Wings. I have also served as a Chaplain for the Cadet Encampment in Louisiana. Serving in CAP is a great experience.
As the Mississippi Wing Chaplain, I have seen a productive ministry. I have conducted funerals for one Senior Member; the Mother of another member; and for a Chaplain who died of Cancer. I have also ministered to the family and members of a unit when a Cadet died of injuries of a plane crash. I have supported the Wing during Exercises; participated in Aerospace Education; and have attended several Wing Cadet Encampments. I have attended several schools, including the National Emergency Services Academy. I have served as the interim when a fellow Chaplain became ill.
I have served as a Scanner while flying in a CAP aircraft; I have flown in a C-130 and a Chinook Helicopter with cadets; and I have visited Air Force ROTC cadets during their Field Training. I have also served the unit Public Affairs Officer. There is still time for ministry such as counseling, visiting members and family members who are ill, and attending Cadet Activities.
There are some down experiences. As Chaplain, I will lead in a Character Development session for Cadets. Some CAP leaders believe that as Chaplain, I need to lead only Character Development for Cadets, to the exclusion of Worship Services. They want all Character Development, all the time! I will continue to work to make sure that all faith groups are represented when it comes to worship. I work to make sure all religious needs are met.
The activities of a CAP Chaplain will always provide a variety.
It’s great to hear of a Cadet going to a service academy, but it’s just as great to hear that one has enlisted or is going to attend a junior college. It’s fun to hear about Senior Members bringing their own children into the Cadet Program. It’s good to know that Senior Members can count on the Chaplain. The Chaplain will need to be prepared for meeting all types of emergencies. He must be willing to attend classes offered to help him grow as a Chaplain. CAP may provide the ministry you want to serve both adults and youth in the Aviation Sector!
Lt. Col. David Smelser is a CBF-Endorsed Military Chaplain serving in the US Civil Air Patrol as the Mississippi Wing Chaplain.