Ch, Capt. Lehmann, CAP... almost...
One of the joys of moving back to Montana was the opportunity to join the Civil Air Patrol again. I had thought about rejoining ever since I was first ordained, but due to various circumstances (location, nature of call, etc.) it was never a viable option until I came home to Montana. Now that I live in the Gallatin Valley, I am blessed to be a part of the Big Sky Composite Squadron of the Montana Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.
The Civil Air Patrol is a United States Air Force Auxiliary that dates to the week before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. At that time Civil Air Patrol members flew many reconaissance missions in support of the war effort. Now Civil Air Patrol is a purely humanitarian organization, and we are actually prohibited by CAP regulations to carry weapons of any kind.
The three primary missions of the Civil Air Patrol are Cadet Programs, Emergency Services, and Aerospace Education. Though I am an aerospace geek and have earned the Chuck Yeager Award for Aerospace Education, I am mainly in the Civil Air Patrol for the Cadet Programs and Emergency Services missions. Civil Air Patrol Cadets (members who are ages 13-20) learn discipline, character development, leadership, service, and can be fully trained members of flight, mission, and ground teams for emergency services. In emergency services, CAP supports local and federal emergency service organizations, particularly in air search and rescue.
When I moved back to Montana, I learned that our local squadron had been seeking a chaplain for years. It was a joy to find out that not only would my service be welcomed, but that there was a specific role in which my training as a pastor would serve my comrades and my community.
In the six months since I rejoined Civil Air Patrol I have completed the Officer Basic Course and begun my training in Emergency Services. I am enrolled in the Drug Demand Reduction and Cadet Programs specialty tracks. On March 1st, I will be appointed a Civil Air Patrol chaplain and commissioned at the grade of Captain (I will be publicly promoted later in the month). The process to become a CAP Chaplain was rigorous. First I had to meet all of the qualifications laid out by the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod's Ministry to the Armed Forces Department. Then I had to send in documentation that proved that I met all of the educational and professional requirements that the United States Air Force has established for its chaplaincy corps. Then I had to wait for the paperwork to pass up the chain of command, be reviewed, and finally approved.
The past few months have been difficult. I have struggled with finding motivation to advance in my professional development and training. I knew that when my chaplaincy appointment came that much of my work in the squadron was going to change dramatically. I felt like I was flying in circles. Welcomed in full by the wonderful people in my squadron, but still without a real place within it.
Now that's all changed. My true Civil Air Patrol "career" is beginning. I will have the opportunity to provide pastoral care to all the members of my squadron. My conversations with them will be protected by Civil Air Patrol regulations. I can begin training as a mission chaplain. I can begin to teach character development classes. I can begin the process of getting to know both the cadets and the seniors as their chaplain, and not just as Senior Member Lehmann.
In a word, I'm thrilled. This is going to be an exciting chapter in my life. I already love the CAP members in my squadron, and it's only going to get better.