NCO says chaplain assistant duty at Academy is a 'quiet reward'

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Veronica Ward
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Tech. Sgt. Misty Edwards is many things: an Airman, a wife and mother of two, and a chaplain assistant at the Air Force Academy.

Edwards has been a chaplain assistant since enlisting in 2003, but said nothing prepared her for an assignment at the Academy, where she provides religious services for the Cadet Wing, the 10th Air Base Wing and the Academy's headquarters staff and family members.

"Nothing prepares you for what chaplain assistants provide in our pluralistic religious environment here," she said. "You cannot lift up one faith and be closed to another. Chaplain assistants are open to talking and to helping anyone. We have confidentiality just like chaplains. We're an avenue of help."

Edwards keeps an office in Sijan Hall with the other chaplain assistants. This summer, she planned 76 diverse worship services in support of Basic Cadet Training.

"I also secure funding so the faith groups can take cadets out to grow in their faiths and have the requirements to lead services," she said.

Edwards and Chaplain (Maj.) Walid Habash, the Academy's Muslim chaplain, form one of many Religious Supports Teams at the Academy that facilitate spiritual care, advise leadership and provide for the free exercise of religion for cadets, Airmen and their families. 

"Misty and the other chaplain assistants are partners in ministry who bring the enlisted perspective to the RST, a voice for the 246,000 enlisted Airmen," said Senior Master Sgt. Sadie Chambers, the Academy's Chaplain Assistant functional manager. "With only 350 active-duty chaplain assistants in the Air Force, we are a small but mighty career field. Our super-hero chaplain assistants go to immeasurable lengths to care for Airmen each and every day. They are essential to achieving the core capabilities and strategic priorities of the chaplain corps."

Edwards said every day as a chaplain assistant brings a new challenge or adventure.

"It's very rewarding but you're behind the scenes, so it's a quiet reward," she said.  

During her three deployments, Edwards assisted service members facing marital problems and helped service members connect with a chaplain. She took on a very different role while assigned to Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

"I took phone calls [from] families feuding, in grief, or relieved their veteran or loved one was no longer suffering," she said. "I was one of two chaplain assistants who managed over a thousand funerals a year. I attended about 500 funerals a year and carried the urns of our veterans' dependents more than 200 times a year. I did the same thing every day, but every day was different. I saw a very different view of death, as I was facilitating a major transition in the lives of their family members."

Edwards did not apply for a specific Air Force specialty when she enlisted. "The chaplain assistant specialty had a video as part of their recruiting," she said. "I grew up in a Catholic church-centered life and my family all worked for the church. When I read the chaplain assistant's job description, I thought I would be working at a church."

The video of a deployed chaplain assistant guarding congregants struck a nerve, Edwards said. After an interview to ensure she could serve in a pluralist religious environment, she was accepted into the career field. She hopes to remain a chaplain assistant for the rest of her career.

"It would be nice to make master sergeant and continue on with the positive changes we've made over the years in this career field," she said.

Edwards is married to Daniel Edwards. The couple has two sons, Desmond, 2, and Silas, 3.

"Balancing my duties with my family role can be challenging but I wouldn't have it any other way," she said.