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Angela White is living a dream that she has kept burning within her all her life – what’s more, it’s something that few women ever get to do, at least in Kentucky.
In February, White was sworn in as only the second female chaplain in the Kentucky National Guard’s past 25 years.
White said she has no idea why there haven’t been more females in that capacity, but doesn’t question God’s will.
“I think it’s just all God’s timing; he makes things come about in his own time,” she said.
White, a major, will serve as chaplain for the 1204th Aviation Support Battalion in Burlington, Ky.
Having joined the Air Force right out of high school, White is not new to military service.
A Montana native, she began her service 25 years ago as a bomber mechanic, then she did a stint in the Air National Guard before becoming an Army nurse on active duty for five years.
In 2010 White decided to enroll in Asbury College’s Theological Seminary for her master’s degree in divinity, a big career change.
But her husband, Jamie White, a Shelbyville native who is also in the Kentucky Air National Guard as a pilot in the 123rd Airlift Wing, wasn’t surprised.
“It wasn’t a rapid decision, it just came together over time,” he said.
He was there at the ceremony in February to pin on her insignia, he said.
“I’m very proud of her accomplishment,” he said. “Several years of hard work went into it, and I’m just glad that it all came together for her.”
Support and encouragement
White said the support of her husband, and their two children, Hannah, 13, and Alex, 15, have been invaluable to her.
After moving around a lot, living in Washington, D.C., Georgia, Mississippi and Arkansas, the family has now been in Shelbyville for the past 11 years, where Angela White serves as a Sunday school director at Dover Baptist and a volunteer counselor at A Loving Choice Pregnancy Center.
“We are just so proud of Angela,” said Jan Antos, director of ALC. “She is an excellent peer counselor and volunteer. I think that what she has accomplished is just wonderful.”
White said her church family at Dover Baptist has been instrumental in supporting her decision to enter the ministry.
“They have been an essential part of my journey,” she said. “They have supported me through this, they ordained me, I could not have done it without them.”
White graduated from the seminary in 2013 and was ordained in May of that year.
She counts David Graetz, a former state chaplain and current Kentucky National Guard chaplain, as a key person in her growth.
“He mentored me, and I just really appreciate him,” he said.
Graetz said he knew right away when he met White in 2010 that she was destined for the chaplain ministry someday.
“When I became a state chaplain, that became my responsibility, to bring candidates on,” he said. “Some candidates are pretty green, they’ve never been in uniform before, they’re in their early twenties and you don’t know what kind of person you’re going to be getting. But Angie, she had some experience under her belt, she had been an RN, and most of our nurses know how to work with people well. She’s done very well and hit the ground running with her unit.”
White is very fond of the soldiers in the three companies that she is assigned to in Burlington and Frankfort, where she also holds chapel services.
A solider’s friend
“Chaplains spend time with soldiers in regular activities, whether it’s training or special skills, and just kind of be amongst them on a regular basis so that they see you as someone approachable, someone that cares about them,” she said. “That way they’re not afraid to bring their problems to you. I encourage and support the soldiers, regardless of religious affiliation or lack of it.”
She said she has been learning about issues that soldiers have, and has already helped one soldier who has shown signs of post traumatic stress syndrome.
“I’ve just been appointed to this unit, but I’ve already done some counseling with a soldier whom I believe has PTS, and I’m just kind of helping him work through things, so I’ve got my eyes open for that kind of thing,” she said.
White said she wants to do the best she can for all of them.
“I know it sounds corny, but I am there to be their biggest fan,” she said. “I really want each soldier to succeed and I’m on their side – I try to convey that to them – that I will be there whenever they need support.”