As long as it takes: Pursuing chaplaincy, one career field at a time

  • Published
  • By 2d Lt. Mara Title
  • 99th Air Base Wing Chaplain’s Office

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. - From the time I decided to join the Air Force back in 2005, I knew I wanted to help support our Airmen. 

I had a journalism background, and was excited to enlist in a broadcasting career.  I got to listen and see all that our Airmen were doing worldwide, from humanitarian missions in Ghana and Bosnia, to communications exercises, such as Combined Endeavor in Germany.  I eventually became a Force Support officer, and then a Public Affairs officer.  I had worked hard to get where I thought I wanted to be, but as the Public Affairs Chief at Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal, from 2010 to 2012, I felt something was drastically missing from my life. 

When I initially realized I wanted to join the Air Force, I already had my degree, and so began the application process to Officer Training School.  I had three weeks to study for the Air Force Officer Qualification Test before the next board.  I tested poorly in math, and my recruiter said I could re-take the test in six months, but as an English Literature Major, I had less than a 10 percent chance of being selected. 

So I decided to enlist, and after nine months headed to basic training.  I enjoyed the immense creativity of being a broadcast producer, and learned how to create a news story--shooting video sequences, writing stories for news production, and editing it all together.  But as much as I enjoyed my job, I still wanted to try for OTS.  I will never forget the day when I found out my package was accepted, and I would go from being an Airman 1st Class to a newly minted 2nd lieutenant.  People who told me I had a one in a million chance of getting in were suddenly congratulating me. 

Although I was beyond excited, the caveat was that I did not get my first career field choice--instead of getting Public Affairs, I got Manpower Personnel. 

Let’s just say I went from shooting Air Force-wide stories in Europe to making ID cards as the Officer in Charge of Customer Service at Los Angeles Air Force Base.  Not the most glamorous position. 

Manpower Personnel soon merged into the Force Support career field, expanding the job opportunities, but I wanted more than anything to cross-train into Public Affairs. 

About a year and a half later, this dream became a reality, and I worked as the only active duty military Public Affairs officer among an all civilian team at LA AFB.  Here I got to coordinate military extras on film shoots (Iron Man II, and Transformers III), television shows (The Jay Leno Show, Wheel of Fortune, The Price is Right, and Don’t Forget the Lyrics), and continue working closely with base media relations.

At Lajes Field, I was able to work closely with base leadership on brainstorming ways to improve morale for our Airmen.  I got to visit the U.S. Consulate Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel, as well as the U.S. Ambassador to Portugal in Lisbon.  And one day, amidst all the busyness, I realized that again something was missing.  I thought the feeling would subside, but it didn’t.  It remained there until I knew I had to change…something.  But what would that be?  What more could I possibly do?  I had been in three different Air Force jobs, and still was at a loss of where I could find meaning. 

Late one night I began to pray about it.  My dad is a pastor, so I grew up with a spiritual upbringing.  It began to dawn on me that I had spent my life asking God to help me get where I wanted to be, but for the first time I began to wonder what God might want for my life.  For me personally, this realization was a major breakthrough. 

Lajes Field ended up being my last assignment as a Public Affairs officer. I began attending Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. I was completely free to study to my heart’s content a subject that I was passionate about.  I had liked Public Affairs, but this was different.  This was fulfilling a longing I’d had for a while—I’d just been unsure how to go forward.  It has begun a new journey that I would not have experienced had I listened to people cautioning me not to get out of the military.  During my time in seminary I entered back into the military as an Air Force Reserve Chaplain Candidate in 2013.  As a chaplain candidate, I have gotten to work alongside chaplains, with a new sense of call and conviction.

I am currently finishing up a 35-day Air Force Reserve Chaplain Candidate tour at Nellis, the last of three tours as a candidate, and am eagerly awaiting coming on board as an Air Force chaplain.  It has taken some time to get here, but I would not trade my journey for the contentment I have knowing I have found what I am meant to pursue. You may be feeling as though something is amiss in your life.  If there is one thing I might offer, it’s that you don’t have to settle in something you’re not truly excited about. You might just come across newfound passion in a place you never expected.