Malmstrom chaplain named Air Force's CGO Chaplain of Year

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force chaplain is the spiritual leader of the force. They, like many others, face dangers and hardships during deployments and at home stations that very few Airmen could face alone. Chaplains play a vital role in the spiritual resiliency pillar of Comprehensive Airman Fitness and are the ears many turn to in times of need.

Recently, Chaplain (Capt.) Keith Manry, a 341st Missile Wing chaplain, was recognized as the Air Force Chaplain Corps Company Grade Officer Chaplain of the Year for 2014. He was recognized for his work at Malmstrom Air Force Base and while deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

"I'm extremely grateful for the opportunities God has provided me over this past year," Manry said. "Working beside incredible medical warriors and ministering to the brave men and women who willingly walk into harm's way, was the most humbling experience of my life.

"What's more, ministering to Afghan local national patients, especially children, was an experience I never expected and which touched my heart in ways I cannot describe," he added. "The opportunity to represent my country, my church, and my God in combat is one which has forever changed me and which I will never forget."

While deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Manry directed the religious support program at U.S. Air Forces Central Command's only Level 1 trauma hospital in Afghanistan.

As the hospital chaplain, he provided critical spiritual care to more than 230 staff and support personnel, ministered to more than 500 hospitalized wounded, directed religious and military protocols for five fallen warriors, and was a first responder to 217 combat-related traumas.

Manry said his experiences with the wounded Army Special Forces Soldiers were moments he won't soon forget.

"These were incredible men full of resiliency, courage and compassion," Manry said. "They always worried for fellow Soldiers (still in the field) and the hospital staff members who were taking care of them while they were lying on the beds wounded."

He also accounted a young Afghan girl who lost both her legs in an attack. He said he worked tirelessly to help determine how the girl's home was destroyed, and helped get a grant to get the home rebuilt.

After returning home, Manry established the wing's first primary in-unit chaplain corps office with the 341st Security Forces Group. He also opened the wing's first Holy Joe's Café, a free coffee outreach program that is open 24/7, serving more than 2,000 cups of coffee per month to the base's defenders. Following the successful implementation of that program, Manry oversaw the outfitting of all 15 missile alert facilities with their own Holy Joe's Cafés.

Among his other responsibilities, Manry provides oversight to the Airmen's Ministry Center, also known as the Detour. In that capacity he has forged relationships with squadron leadership to offer monthly home-cooked lunches for Airmen. He also began an initiative with Malmstrom's spouses club where they served lunch to and interacted with Airmen monthly.

"As I returned to my responsibilities as a chaplain stateside, thousands of miles removed from the frontlines of the war, my eyes have been opened to the importance of the work we all do whether in Afghanistan or Montana," Manry said. "The world needs men and women like those who surround us every day here at Malmstrom -- individuals who together are willing to stand up for what's right, embodying values like integrity and compassion."

He said he hopes and prays that he can play a small part in encouraging the phenomenal Airmen he works with daily to continue to stand for justice and stand against oppression and terror.

"As a chaplain, my personal belief is that these opportunities were given to me by God. Every day I am thankful to God for the chance to put on this uniform and serve in this amazing capacity," Manry said. "Most days I feel extremely unqualified to do this work. I am overwhelmed by the strength and courage God has given me and the daily grace God provides me to meet whatever comes my way."

Despite all the good and bad he said he has seen in the last year, he couldn't have done any of it without the love and support of his family and friends.

"Everything I was able to be a part of last year wouldn't have been possible without the support of many people in my life," Manry said. "First, my amazing wife, Erica, who has for more than 18 years been my greatest cheerleader and source of encouragement and support.

"She has sacrificed so much in order to allow me to follow this calling. I don't know how I would do this work without her," he added. "In addition, my four children were brave and strong, supporting their dad and giving up so much so that I could serve. I also owe a word of thanks to my parents and our extended family who have been forced to make sacrifices so that we can serve."