KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
The 403rd Wing recently welcomed two new chaplains to help ensure the spiritual well-being of the nearly 1,500 Reserve Citizen Airmen that serve in the unit.
The wing’s new head chaplain, Chaplain (Maj.) Torrey Garrison, spent his first Unit Training Assembly weekend with the wing Nov. 5-6. Prior to his arrival here, he served as an Individual Mobilization Augmentee at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England.
“This is my first traditional reservist wing chaplain experience,” said Garrison. “All I’ve ever wanted to be is in a position where I could make a positive difference and I think with a assignment like this one, there is ample opportunity for me to make a difference whether it’s in one person’s life or a lot of people’s.”
Garrison’s time in service began around 30 years ago as an enlisted member of the U.S. Coast Guard where he earned sea time on a black hull buoy tender.
“To be honest, during my time in the Coast Guard I realized, ‘This military stuff isn’t for me,’” he said. “So about two years in I started environmental health and safety school to get my associate’s degree, and after 4 years active duty I started my civilian career in environmental health and safety, a field I’ve been in for the past 22 years now.”
After a nearly 15-year break in service though, Garrison found himself back in uniform as an Air Force Reserve Chaplain.
“In my years in the Coast Guard, I never once saw our chaplains, and that’s what I keep with me being one now,” he said. “I think it’s extremely important to be visible in the units, to be seen and make sure people know we are here.”
Part of that we is the wing’s other new chaplain, Chaplain (1st Lt.) Chris Steverson. Like Garrison, he started out enlisted, but in the Air Force as an F-16 crew chief where he would serve for six years from 2003 to 2009.
“As a young Airman my perception of the chaplain program was that they were just preachers,” said Steverson. “I didn’t understand what all other services they provided, and honestly I didn’t try to understand back then.”
After his active duty tour, he went into education and eventually ministry as well, never thinking he’d come back to the military, but in 2015 he said an event happened that led him to consider returning to service as a chaplain.
After a few years of mulling it over, and with the support of his wife, he started the process of getting into the Chaplain Candidate Program, went through seminary, and was appointed in June of this year where he began his chaplaincy as an IMA at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, before arriving at the 403rd Wing this fall.
“Having experienced being enlisted and now being in this position, I think what I’d have wanted to know then and what I want Airmen to know now is that the chaplains are more than just preachers at a chapel service,” said Steverson. “We offer 100% confidentiality. The ability to talk about anything you want to or need to without worrying about that coming back and that somehow negatively affecting your life or career.”
Like Garrison, Steverson sees the importance of going out into the units and bringing the benefits of their role to Airmen.
Both said their welcome to the 403rd Wing has been a warm one and that they look forward to growing as chaplains and officers and making connections and positive impacts in the wing.
“You don’t have to be a Protestant Christian to come to our office,” said Steverson. “We’re here to serve members of every faith or no faith. We’re here for the spiritual health of Airmen and their families.”
Protestant service is held every UTA Sunday at 7:15 a.m. in the 815th Airlift Squadron auditorium. To contact a chaplain during the UTA call 228-377-0400; for out of office hours call Chaplain Garrison at 251-508-7166. If it is an emergency call Command Post at 228-377-4181.