195th Wing chaplain commissions to serve fellow Airmen

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Melanie Nolen
  • 195th Wing Public Affairs

 “One of the main things I’d like our Airmen and Guardians to know is that chaplains aren’t here to try to ‘bring you to faith’. We are here to help you integrate the faith that you have and that includes walking with you as your faith needs change,” said Chaplain Martin.

The California Air National Guard’s 195th Wing welcomed their newest chaplain when Master Sgt. Rene Martin III, commissioned as a Chaplain (1st Lieutenant) at the Sepulveda Air National Guard Station in Van Nuys, California, October 2, 2021.

Before commissioning, Martin served as the religious affairs superintendent for the 195th Wing, supporting National Guard service members during monthly unit training assemblies, civil support missions and COVID-19 activations.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Sarmiento, with the 163rd Attack Wing, administered the Oath of Office. Martin was encouraged by Chaplain Sarmiento almost ten years ago to look into continuing his military service by becoming a chaplain.

At the time, Martin said, he was going through a divorce and experiencing social disconnection with his squadron while activated on Title 10 orders. His squadron commander, noticing the warning signs, conferred with the Group Chaplain (Sarmiento) who reached out to Martin, as a confidential person he could talk as he was experiencing emotional hard times. The fact that Martin felt his pain was noticed and leadership had acted to connect him to resources, encouraged and enabled him to work through his issues with the support of Chaplain Sarmiento.

“He [Sarmiento] gave me three reasons why he thought I would make a good military chaplain and the first was ‘as a new Christian, you know what it means to reach out to people who aren’t part of a faith tradition,’” Martin said. “Also, at the time, I had already been enlisted for 15 years and he agreed that I knew a lot more about the military than the people coming straight out of seminary. And lastly he said that we need better representation from persons of color, both in the chaplain corps and as an officer.”

At Sarmiento’s suggestion, Martin started reaching out for more information and looking into what it might take to start the journey to chaplaincy.

“From that moment to now, God knew what was necessary to keep me motivated to do the tough things like getting through seminary, going through ordination, completing a chaplaincy residency and going through the encompassing and embodying process of learning to care for people in very difficult situations,” said Martin. “All of that was a journey. The difficult things I’ve had to learn about myself to go through this process and the experiences I’ve had to go through have made me a profoundly better Airman, spouse and father...more simply, a better person.”

Martin said that his prior enlisted experience and personal growth are two of the greatest assets he has, to communicate and reach Airmen through his service as a chaplain. Communication has been a common theme throughout his military career, including his time serving as a radio repairer and tech controller for the U.S. Marine Corps and working as an operational intelligence analyst with the Air National Guard.

“What I loved about being a tech controller, my dream job at the time, was connecting disparate networks and locations,” said Martin. “The next level expanded on that when I moved into the intelligence field. Not only was I taking two separate organizations (i.e. networks) and getting them to be able to communicate, I was looking at whole environments and translating them so commanders could make effective decisions as a unified military force.”

Martin started attending seminary at the Claremont School of Theology while still part of the intelligence community before transferring to religious affairs at the 195th Wing.

”When I got the call into chaplaincy, it all came full circle,” Martin said. “I’m now taking humans and communities and getting them to connect to other humans and communities so we can make life-changing decisions as a unified and connected society.”

Currently serving in a civilian capacity as a hospice chaplain, Martin feels that his next step as a military chaplain is to help further the personal integration of religion and family involvement within a service member’s career in the Air National Guard.

“Whether they are Airmen with strong religious traditions or Airmen that are intentionally atheist or humanist, I want to let them know that their authentic spiritual self is wanted and expected within their mission in the Air National Guard,” said Martin. “The things that motivate them to want to do this [Guard] job, also includes their families. Using ways like the Strong Bonds program, for example, I want to help Airmen and Guardians connect their families to the work they do in the Air National Guard.”

Having had the experience he did many years ago with a chaplain who took the time to show he cared, Chaplain Martin said he wants Airmen and Guardians to know that he cares and he is here to support them with 100% confidentiality.

“When we experience a cognitive and physical dissonance doing our work as warriors and we don’t know how to get through it, it causes harm in our whole person,” said Martin. “My role as a chaplain is to help you move your body, your heart, your mind, and your soul through the dissonance to where you can appropriately integrate your traumatic experiences into your life. I use the word ‘appropriate’ loosely, because regardless, a chaplain is going to sit with you and help to walk you through it. It’s not my job to ‘bring you to Jesus’. My job is to help you to do whatever it is you need to do to help you be a whole person in the Guard, to include calling on your God, if that is what you need.”