WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
Chaplain Capt. Graham Baily and his religious support team provide and accommodate for the first amendment right of the Airmen and families of Whiteman Air Force Base to freely exercise their religions and receive pastoral care.
Baily said that that is their official mission, but he has a second variation in mind as well.
“The way it works itself out in my life and in my work is that we are here to love Airmen,” he said. “Coming alongside them in good times and bad to partner with them in their own perseverance as they strive to become the best versions of themselves.”
Baily received the annual Edwin R. Chess Award as the outstanding Company Grade Officer Chaplain within the Global Strike Command.
“I am not here to be recognized,” he said. “I am here because it is my calling.”
After separating from the Air Force as a Senior Airman in 2000, he attended college and then graduate school. He then became a pastor.
While sitting at his desk in his Chicago office in 2006, working on a sermon, he paused to reflect on some of the difficulties in his own life as a young pastor, husband and father.
“I just sat and talked with God for a while,” said Baily. “I asked Him ‘Where is this journey of ministry taking me and my family, is this the right place for me to continue serving?’”
While reaching into the drawer of his desk to retrieve a notebook, his hand found an Air Force coin that had been given to him by a chaplain before he separated from the Air Force.
“Holding it in my hand, there was just this moment of clarity,” said Baily. “When it became very clear to me that this community, the community of people in the United States Air Force, was the community that I wanted to serve in some way.”
He said he did not know what that service would look like at first, but that it eventually began to take shape.
Baily earned a Master’s degree in Divinity and began to serve as an AF Reserve chaplain in 2009. He also continued to work as a civilian pastor in local congregations.
In 2012, he rejoined the active-duty Air Force to answer his calling fulltime. He has committed the last six plus years of his life to serving Airmen and their families.
Since joining team Whiteman, Baily has made a lasting impact in the areas of leadership, base and community involvement, and in his strides to continually self-improve.
In the last year alone, he piloted the $135 thousand renovation to the base ministry center. He also volunteered more than 220 hours within the community as an athletic coach/mentor and academic lead for resilience outreach at Gordon College.
Baily became the second chaplain in the U.S. AF to be admitted to the Clinical Pastoral Education program, through which he learned to respond as a minister to traumatic emergencies and engage in spiritual triage in a hospital setting.
Baily said the first trauma he responded to was that of a severe burn victim who had survived a house fire.
“I’ll tell you,” he said. “The time spent at the hospital has really transformed the way that I engage with people.”
He described his approach now as trauma-informed ministry.
“When I engage with people now, I am far more mindful of what they’ve been through and what they might be going through,” said Baily. “I have a better sense of how to help them recover from traumatic events.”
He described how that knowledge applies to his work as a chaplain within the Air Force.
“More people than we realize have experienced some type of traumatic event in their lives and they carry that around with them” he said. “Sometimes they experience that before they join the military and bring all of that with them.”
Baily cited things like abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, car accidents and natural disasters as examples.
Since completing the CPE program, he has invested more than 200 hours responding to Team Whiteman during various traumatic crises.
“People who have experienced trauma need to feel safe,” he said. “They need to be able to mourn and they need to be able to reconnect in ways that are meaningful. Being mindful of that process toward recovery is important.”
Baily reflected on receiving the award for his work.
“There’s no way that 10 lines can sum up what it’s like to journey with an Airman as they become their best selves,” he said.
He described the reward he takes from his work helping the people around him heal.
“As I guide them, I am also becoming my best self. I have been refined by the community that I care so deeply for,” said Baily.