by Monica Mendoza
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.
It was a good thing Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Randall Kitchens, 21st Space Wing chaplain, was a passenger and not driving the morning the Air Force Space Command chaplain called.
“Randy, congratulations, your chapel team just won the Air Force team of the year,” Chaplain (Col.) Gregory Tate told Chaplain Kitchens.
“I was in shock,” Chaplain Kitchens said.
Not to worry, Mrs. Kitchens was at the wheel, Chaplain Kitchens told Chaplain Tate.
The 21st Space Wing Chapel team recently was named the best medium-sized chapel in the Air Force with the Terence P. Finnegan Award. Thule Air Base, where the 821st Air Base Group has its own chaplain and chaplain assistant, was recognized in the award also, for providing religious support in the cold, remote location of Greenland.
Chaplain Tate, AFSPC chaplain, said he was not surprised by the win.
“The 21st SW chapel staff is first class,” he said, “They continually engage the community in an outstanding manner providing religious support across all spectrums.”
The term “medium-sized chapel,” might be a little misleading.
The 21st SW chapel, with its eight military staff members, serves 70,000 people in the wing’s 39 units, 27 locations, six installations in five countries. And don’t forget that Peterson is home to four headquarters, Chaplain Tate said.
“That makes this wing very distinctive with its own set of unique challenges,” he said. And, that equates to 65 ceremonies in 2009 covered by the wing chaplains.
The 21st SW medium-sized chapel had a big year, Chaplain Kitchens said.
The chapel building was upgraded with new lights, a new sound system, a new kitchen and a redesign of office and mediation rooms. The wing chapel partnered with AFSPC to cover the costs of accompanists, parish coordinators and directors for each worship service, which saved the wing thousands of dollars. And, throughout the year, at least one staff member was deployed at all times supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom.
“That means we carried the mission forward into the AOR,” Chaplain Kitchens said. “It’s been a total team effort.”
The 21st SW chapel’s three priorities are warrior care, parish-based ministry and care for the caregivers.
“Warrior care is taking care of deployers and their families before they deploy, while they are deployed and after they deploy,” Chaplain Kitchens said.
That care included hosting 12 deployed family dinners for 1,500 family members and giving more than 400 welcome home briefs to returning Airmen.
When asked about highlights of the year, Chaplain Kitchens smiles. “There are several,” he said. “No. 1 has to do with some of the ministries and programs we have offered the community, like our Airman Ministry Center, which is called Eclipse Cyber Café.”
The cyber café, in an Airman dormitory, has been noted as one of the best in the command, Chaplain Kitchens said. In 2009, the café saw a 15 percent increase in use.
And, there is something else happing within the chapel community, he said. In 2009, the chapel hosted four fellowship events, which brought together 600 people from three faith groups.
“We have a Protestant parish, a Catholic parish and a small Jewish community, and it has been about bringing everyone together,” Chaplain Kitchens said. “It’s me addressing all of the groups to say, we are one team with one mission. It’s unity of efforts, not necessarily unity of faith, and realizing we have a common purpose and a common goal.”
When all is said and done, Chaplain Tate expects from the 21st SW what he expects from all AFSPC chaplain corps personnel, “to serve as a visible reminder of the Holy within the command.”
“As thrilled as I am for the awards we garnered for our teams and individuals, I am most proud that our chaplain corps personnel continue to serve Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines serving in Air Force Space Command,” he said. “Ultimately, we are not judged by the awards we win, the rank we wear or the decorations we earn. Rather, we will be judged by the manner in which we embrace, and live out, the chaplain corps vision: glorifying God, serving Airmen and pursuing excellence.”