Reunited Again: The Story of Three Air Force Chaplain Corps College Staff Chaplains

  • Published
  • By Chaplain Maj Darrel Lance Schrader
You may have heard the phrase, “It’s a small Air Force.” For Chaplains Maj. Daniel “Shane” Walker, Maj. Glen “JR” Harris and Maj. James “Godfather” Galyon, this saying rings true, and for the betterment of both the U.S. Air Force and our Chaplain Corps. They currently serve together as staff chaplains and instructors at the Air Force Chaplain Corps College (AFCCC).

The first time these three chaplains came together was at the Ira C. Eaker Center for Professional Development on Maxwell Air Force Base, home of the AFCCC. They arrived for the Basic Chaplain Course (BCC) in January 2008 at what was then the Chaplain Service Institute. During the following six weeks of academic training, they received not only foundational principles for serving as military chaplains, but also developed friendships with one another. These seeds of friendship planted as young chaplains have blossomed over the years, now producing bountiful fruit back at the place where it all started.

Each chaplain has their own reasons for serving in the Air Force Chaplain Corps; yet with this trio of chaplains in particular, a common thread runs throughout their individual stories. When asked why they chose to be chaplains, all three first and foremost, referenced a call from God to ministry. This general calling transformed into a more specific call; a call to serve in a military context. In due time, they each committed themselves to serve both God and country.

All three chaplains have a rich family history of military service that contributed greatly to their desire to join and serve our nation. Chaplain Walker’s grandfathers were in the military as well as his father. Both his grandfathers served in WWII. One of his grandfathers was a combat engineer in both France and the Aleutian Islands, and the other in the Army in the Philippines. His father served honorably as a maintainer during the Vietnam era.

Chaplain Harris’s grandfather retired with distinction from the Navy as a veteran of WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Harris’s father also retired from the Navy. With his father serving, Harris grew up in the Navy town of Pensacola, Florida. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, left an incredibly profound impact on the young Harris, and it was ultimately his father’s encouragement to choose the Air Force that tipped the scales towards embarking into the blue.

Chaplain Galyon graduated from a Department of Defense Dependent School in Germany. The product of a legacy of military service, his father served in the Army and his father in the Air Force as well as the Army. Further back in his history, two of his grandfathers served; one in the Army, the other in the Army Air Forces. Galyon credits his grandfather’s service in the Army Air Forces as his most significant draw to raise his hand to join the Air Force.

The parallels between Walker, Harris and Galyon continued when posed the question, “What has helped you stay the course throughout your years of service?” Once again, the trio articulated similar sentiments: relationships. Each of them have been sustained by a continual relationship with God, one another and because of the impacts made upon them by the countless Airmen they have served alongside.

Like many of their brothers and sisters in arms, they have come to know that some of the most significant relationships we have in our military family have been forged through fire.

Chaplains Walker and Harris first served together as chaplain candidates at Eglin AFB, before they had attended the BCC. Years later, the two found themselves working alongside each other again at the Cadet Chapel of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They partnered together frequently during those years, giving spiritual guidance and much needed resiliency to the young, future leaders of the Air Force.

There is a saying in the military, “IGY6,” or “I Got Your 6,” and Walker and Harris made this phrase come to life for their chapel team and their cadets. The value of the work they were doing was most evident when tragedy struck the Academy. Sadly, a cadet lost their life as a result of a vehicle accident. Walker and Harris did not hesitate to answer the call to service. Walker supported the unit while Harris was dispatched to care for the family and support the casualty affairs officer. Recalling the incident, the chaplains commented on how humbling it was to be with their fellow Airmen and their families in those sacred moments.

Harris and Galyon served together at Nellis AFB, Nevada, as young and eager chaplains. The duo ministered to the Nellis community through great adversity during multiple catastrophic events.

“Having Chaplain Harris there and knowing what his gifts and abilities are gave me confidence,” said Galyon. “I knew that I was not alone, and that he would do a great job caring for those in his area of responsibility as I cared for those in mine.”

Harris recalled a time when he received a set of Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders that seemed to come out of nowhere. These orders would take him away from a ministry that he was excited about and that he didn’t feel ready to leave. At the time he really began to question whether the military life would be for him.

“The Lord had to really poke me in the chest and remind me that it is not about me,” said Galyon. “Airmen are my people, and I can’t picture myself anywhere else.”

Galyon recollected a difficult time not that long ago in his career when he was discouraged, and was even considering not continuing in the military line of work.

“God’s providence caused my path to cross with a friend from our Basic Chaplain Course who keeps me sane and kept me in the Air Force.”

Although these three chaplains have been formed by their fair share of relationships built through adversity, there have also been strong and lasting relationships generated in good times as well. The three men credit many entertaining phone calls, texts and emails that have kept them connected as the years have gone by. During an interview, the three of them could not contain their laughter as they reminisced about their times together from that first class and beyond.

Walker and Galyon found themselves reunited once more as they arrived to the AFCCC for the Deputy Wing Chaplain Course. That time not only afforded them the opportunity to reflect on their military chaplaincy journey and prepare for their next level of responsibilities, but served as a time that deepened their friendship.

“When you are with people at the best of times and the worst of times, it forges deep friendships,” said Harris.

This couldn’t be truer for these three chaplains, all of whom have answered our nation’s call. What had begun as personal and professional friendships in an academic environment evolved into a bond like no other for these men. Now they have returned to the Chaplain Corps College where it all began, but this time as instructors. These three chaplains bring years of experience, providing education, training, and resources to new generations of Air Force Chaplains.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” - Proverbs 17:17