Top Chaplain Top Pitmaster

  • Published
  • By TSgt Javier Cruz
  • 14th Flying Training Wing

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. –Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Randall E. Kitchens, Chief of Chaplains for the Department of the Air Force, second Chief of Chaplains of the United States Space Force, visited the 14th Flying Training Wing to provide updates to the Chaplain Next 2.0 Strategic Plan, also known as HC NEXT June 30, 2023.

 The program was developed in 2020 as part of an Air Force Chaplain Corps initiative to enhance personal and professional growth within the Chaplain Corps that would then serve other Airmen and families to contribute to mission readiness. HC Next was described as an evolution in care occurring within the Air Force Chaplain Corps in a 2020 Air Force Material Command AFMC news feature. Since then, the program has evolved again with HC Next 2.0.

Kitchens currently oversees the program and met with 14 FTW chapel staff to explain the new changes. Included in HC NEXT 2.0 is a streamlining of readiness training for the chapel corps, focus on culture for deliberate intrinsic development and beta testing of a new initiative which will bolster unit readiness with trained embedded specialists. The goal of the initiative is to cultivate connectedness for all Airmen within the units. The program is currently under testing at 10 Air Force installations.

In a June memo, Kitchens explained how the chapel corps will utilize a new “Train the Trainer” course which will focus on standardizing chaplain corps core competencies in readiness training to better prepare chaplain corps personnel for their role in future conflicts.

“By restructuring readiness training, we are reducing the total time chaplains and religious support Airmen are separated from their families,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Carlos Ramosgraulau, 14 FTW chaplain. “Bringing readiness training back to the unit will help us create a readiness mindset.”

During the briefing, Kitchens emphasized the importance of trust in fostering connectedness with Airmen. One of the previous key features of HC NEXT was for Chaplains to go directly to the units and squadrons to determine the needs of the Airmen and build positive relationships to bolster resiliency.

“Connection helps us understand our roles,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Ken Thomas, 14 FTW chaplain. “Being truly integrated in the unit gives you an understanding of how you fit into the mission.”

The original overarching goal of HC NEXT was to prepare Airmen spiritually to successfully deploy and return home to their families with confidence, according to the AFMC 2020 article.

During his visit to Columbus, Kitchens and Senior Master Sergeant Tomeka D. Jackson, Senior Enlisted Leader for Space Religious Affairs, spoke with 14 FTW Airmen about spiritual fitness during the Top Pitmaster cookoff. The event was created to provide an opportunity for Columbus Airmen to connect and bolster morale over BBQ.

“The first Top Pitmaster Challenge at Columbus AFB proved to be an overwhelming success,” said Thomas. “Over 500 people attended the inaugural cook off…Chaplain Major General Kitchens provided the keynote address highlighting purpose and connectedness.”

The inaugural cookoff event was open to all Columbus AFB residents and featured free BBQ and entertainment. The 14 FTW chapel team secured an Air Force Installation Mission Support Center resiliency grant worth approximately $5,000 to host the event while promoting the four pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness.