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Top Air Force Chaplain says ‘with faith, we have air cover’
Chap. (Maj. Gen.) Cecil Richardson greets Senior Master Sgt. (ret.) Dave Berry at the Maxwell-Gunter National Prayer Breakfast Feb. 13 at the Maxwell Officers’ Club. Chaplain Richardson, chief of Chaplains for the Air Force, was the keynote speaker. Sergeant Berry is a local Jewish lay leader. (Air Force photo by Melanie Rodgers Cox)
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Top Air Force chaplain says 'with faith, we have air cover'

Posted 2/19/2009   Updated 2/19/2009 Email story   Print story


by Joy Ovington
Air University Public Affairs

2/19/2009 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- As the keynote speaker for Maxwell-Gunter's National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 13, Chap. (Maj. Gen.) Cecil R. Richardson, chief of Chaplains for the Air Force, told a crowded ballroom at the Maxwell's Officers' Club that "with faith, we have air cover."

Chaplain Richardson directs the chaplain program for more than 800,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve, and civilian forces serving in the United States and overseas. He leads an Air Force Chaplain Service of approximately 2,300 chaplains and chaplain assistants from the active and reserve components.

Giving the story of David and Goliath a new spin, Chaplain Richardson explained how it was much more than just a children's story.

"It's a story about faith and courage under fire," he said. "Also, it shows victory comes to those who don't just believe, but to those who step out on their faith."

The chaplain said David possessed qualities commanders should emulate: care for troops, provision of troops, force protection and quality of life. He said people go through a lot in their life facing giants like medical problems, family issues and stress on the job.

He personally spoke as a Christian chaplain, explaining that his responsibility is to lead Christian worship, symbolized by the cross he wears on his uniform. However, there are inter-denominational and inter-faith chaplains designated to various other religions, such as Judaism and Islam.

"It is my role to be a pastor to Christians, and a chaplain to all," he said.

He said spiritual readiness in the military is as important as mental, emotional and physical readiness.

"It's my consuming passion to make sure every man and woman who joins the Air Force has the opportunity to freely practice faith," Chaplain Richardson said "And I want the chaplain core to look like the religious make up of America."

He told of how his passion for ministry has been handed down to his eldest son, who is an Air Force chaplain currently serving with Army units in Afghanistan.

He said his son e-mailed him saying that he was out with Special Forces, and they were getting ready to go through a valley that was known to be a favorite ambush point for the Taliban.

"Dad, we waited outside the valley for six hours, didn't move at all, didn't go anywhere," his son reported. "The reason we waited was we were waiting for air cover. Once the air cover arrived, then we just went right through the valley because we knew we were safe as long as the air cover was up there."

"Go Air Force!" was the general's response that drew applause from listeners in the ballroom.

Richardson further illustrated his message by adapting scripture.

"Yea, though I walk though the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for I got air cover - and we know we are not alone," Chaplain Richardson said.

He said, "Faith is very good, but you have to step out on faith. It's not a sit down and believe; it's a step up and believe. Faith really calls for us to step forward and apply it to our lives."

He also said he greets the future with optimism.

"I am absolutely convinced that America has never loved its military more," he said. "I have been there in the airport when guys get off the airplane in uniform, and they walk out and the applause starts. I've seen it - it's amazing. America has never loved its military more, and the military has never loved its chaplains more. Wherever the chaplain goes, especially the desert, it's amazing how the people stop the chaplains and ask them to pray for their family and friends."

Using his personal style of humor to keep his message light and interesting, the general spoke on his long career in the Air Force.

"I now have been a chaplain for 32 years. I have now logged over 4,500 hours in various models of Air Force pulpits," he quipped.

Back to a serious tone, the Chaplain Richardson said faith can be a force multiplier.

"I'm not saying that nothing bad will ever happen to you," he said. "But if you put your faith in Him, whatever He authorizes, He will give you the grace to handle it. You see, we've got air cover. God has a huge Air Force full of angels, and he's not downsizing. You've got a wingman. And victory comes to those who step out and act on their faith."

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