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May Chaplain's Reflections

Portrait of U.S Air Force Maj. Christina Pittman, the 169th Fighter Wing chaplain, along with Avalon, the therapy assistance dog for ministry at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, March 19, 2019. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Caycee Watson)

Portrait of U.S Air Force Maj. Christina Pittman, the 169th Fighter Wing chaplain, along with Avalon, the therapy assistance dog for ministry at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, March 19, 2019. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Caycee Watson)

Portrait of U.S Air Force Maj. Christina Pittman, the 169th Fighter Wing chaplain, along with Avalon, the therapy assistance dog for ministry at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, March 19, 2019. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Caycee Watson)

Portrait of U.S Air Force Maj. Christina Pittman, the 169th Fighter Wing chaplain, along with Avalon, the therapy assistance dog for ministry at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, March 19, 2019. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Caycee Watson)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

“SCANG Chaplain Corps Welcomes Chaplain, 1st Lt. Kirby Whitley and Avalon”

A word from Ch. Kirby Whitley-

Hello fellow Swamp Foxes, I am humbled to have the opportunity to introduce myself as a Chaplain for 169th Fighter Wing. My name is 1st Lt. Kirby Whitley and I have been married for 16 years to my wife Heather. We have three beautiful daughters, Raegan, Madison and Harper.

The journey to become a chaplain began four and half years ago with late nights, long papers and continuous prayer. My Air Force career began in maintenance seven years ago, working in fuel systems. You are probably thinking, a chaplain who worked in maintenance, that’s different!  The earliest apostles of Christ gave up their careers as fisherman and dropped their nets to follow him (Matthew 4:20). The desire to serve my country placed me in fuselages and wing fuel cells but now I look forward to being amongst Airmen of the greatest Air Force on earth, to serve you.  

As I transition into this new role, being available and approachable are just a few of my goals for the year ahead. Completing the mission of protecting the homeland and being available to take the fight to the enemy is what makes this organization special. Guard your hearts and minds as we guard against adversaries who seek to minimize our stance for freedom.

Semper Primus

Welcome Avalon-

Some of you may be wondering how McEntire gained an Assistance Dog. It was a year ago this past March when I realized the need for Airmen at McEntire to have the benefit of therapy animal interactions. I brought in two puppies and a bangle cat for resiliency visits following a loss. My heart was lifted as I watched maintainers with scratches on their hands and jet fuel splashed on their boots melt over petting and playing with puppies. The mood in the shop lifted as the excitement and engagement with the dogs brought new life and opened lines of communication. I knew then animal visits needed to continue and I began to set goals to develop assistance dog integration for mental, emotional, and spiritual care.

In my effort to secure a regular base therapy animal visits I came across National Education of Assistance Dog Services (NEADS) through my Mental Health Integration in Chaplain Services (MHICS) course supervisor. You can imagine my elation when the idea was offered that I could acquire an assistance dog for ministry at McEntire Joint National Guard Base (JNGB). To imagine the prospect of an embedded base assistance dog was transforming. Through high anticipation and excitement, a year after a tragic loss on base. I received the call I was matched with Avalon! When I first saw her my eyes teared up with joy and gratitude to know my Airmen and Veterans would know the unconditional love and comfort of this special creature.

Today Avalon has done so much in such a short time to care for and minister to military personnel and Veterans. I am humbled to be a part of this historical pioneering of implementing Assistance Dogs with active military service members and veterans full time. The innovation she brings to the mental emotional and spiritual care of our service members and veterans is life changing. Already her foot prints are in hospitals, schools, funerals, churches, homes, Air Force Chaplain Corps College at Maxwell Air Force Base, The Adjutant General’s office of South Carolina, army installations, navy/marine chaplaincy and on the hearts of those who carry the burdens and sacrifices with honor of serving this great nation.

When she is not working or training, she is a family dog. My children Graham, Elena, and Wyatt enjoy the privilege of caring for her and sharing life together as they grow-up. Avalon, you are our shining star with your Swamp Fox family at McEntire JNGB, South Carolina. We are blessed to be in the rays of light of hope and unconditional love you give so tirelessly. Thank you NEADS for a gift impossible to measure. Our gratefulness is life long in the spirit of all those who have the opportunity to meet Avalon and are transformed by her selfless service,

Please feel free to make special request for visits with Avalon or you desire more information or support on spiritual strength or religious provisions, please call the SCANG Chaplain Corps office at 803-647-8265. We look forward to serving you!