by Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson
341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
6/17/2015 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- 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, 341st Missile Wing chaplain, was
recognized as the Air Force Chaplain Corps Company Grade Officer
Chaplain of the Year for 2014. His work both at Malmstrom and while
deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, is what helped him win this
"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 Air Force Central Command's only
level-one 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
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
"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
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
"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."