172nd Airlift Wing Chaplain receives MCA Distinguished Service Award

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Shardae McAfee
  • 172nd Airlift Wing

Maj. R. Caleb Clark, deputy chaplain with the 172nd Airlift Wing in Jackson, Mississippi, received the Military Chaplains Association Distinguished Service Award for the U.S. Air National Guard on July 28, 2023.

The MCA Distinguished Service Award is presented each year at the MCA National Institute Conference to recognize the excellency of top chaplains across the Department of Defense within ministries of active duty and reserve units across the Army, Air Force, and Navy.

“I am honored to be this year’s Air Guard representative,” said Clark. “I know many excellent chaplains in our service, and to be named among them brings me great satisfaction in my work.”

“Chaplain Clark is full of joy,” said Lt. Col. Seth Still, 172nd AW Chaplain. “He cheers people up and brings smiles to people’s faces. He’s made a huge impact and brings great value to our base, especially having a full-time Chaplain for Airmen here at the 172nd Airlift Wing.”

The nomination by Colonel, Chaplain Leah Boling, Director of ANG Chaplain Corps, was based on opportunities of service at Clark’s home base, and as the Deputy Wing Chaplain at Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“We had an excellent team (at Prince Sultan Air Base), and I had a great active-duty partner in Religious Affairs, Staff Sgt. Lexi Macanas, who really helped our team thrive,” said Clark. “That success led to me being named the U.S. Air Force Central Chaplain of the Quarter and was a component of why I was selected for this award, as well.”

“Caring professions such as chaplains, medical personnel, judge advocates and the director of psychological health are jobs asking other people how they are doing,” said Still. “But that very rarely gets reciprocated to those caring individuals, so it’s very important for chaplains to have strong resilience because so many people are dependent on the chaplain.”

“The chaplain’s role is unique to us, but a military chaplain is even more unique with our one hundred percent confidentiality promise,” said Clark. “We carry people’s secrets. Often their worst days on this earth eat and gnaw at their hearts and souls until they finally tell someone, and that someone is usually the chaplain.”

Chaplains, as a group, carry many peoples’ burdens willingly. Learning to help others while living a mentally, spiritually and physically resilient lifestyle is a necessity.

Although there are challenges, chaplains benefit in knowing they have helped strengthen service members’ lives.

“I think we unbind and let loose people who are hurting,” said Clark. “We don’t always get to see the fruits of our labor. Hopefully, I can stack enough good days and deeds to help people and strengthen the mission of sustained freedom.”