Capt. Graham Baily, an EPC-ordained chaplain assigned to the U.S. Air Force 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., has received the annual Edwin R. Chess Award as the outstanding Company Grade Officer Chaplain within the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC).
The award is not the first for Baily and his ministry team. Past recognition includes the Charles R. Meier Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of an Air Force Chaplain Assistant, and an Outstanding Religious Support Team award.
“Graham is a tremendous example of a chaplain who goes far above and beyond in his ministry to the Airmen and many others he supports at Whiteman,” said Mark Ingles, EPC Chaplain Endorser. “A few months ago I went to Whiteman to visit Graham and experience his ministry firsthand. He was the project officer for the National Prayer Luncheon, and was hosting the Air Force Chief of Chaplains as their guest speaker. The event received rave reviews from all corners—including the Chief. That is just another example of the impact Graham is having.”
Baily and his religious support team provide and accommodate for the first amendment right of the Airmen and families of Whiteman AFB to freely exercise their faith 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.”
After separating from the Air Force as a Senior Airman in 2000, Baily attended college and then graduate school. He then became a pastor. While working on a sermon in 2006, 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,” Baily said. “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 a desk drawer to retrieve a notebook, he found an Air Force coin that had been given to him by a chaplain before he left the Air Force.
“Holding it in my hand, there was just this moment of clarity,” Baily recalled. “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 of Divinity degree and began to serve as an USAF 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 serve 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 a $135,000 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 only the second Air Force Chaplain 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. He recalled the first trauma he responded to—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,” he said. “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. Sometimes they experience that before they join the military and bring all of that with them.”
As examples, Baily cited abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, car accidents, and natural disasters. 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 said the Chess Award, while a great honor, pales in comparison to the reward he takes from his work helping the people around him heal.
“There’s no way to briefly sum up what it’s like to journey with an Airman as they become their best selves,” he said. “As I guide them, I am also becoming my best self. I have been refined by the community that I care so deeply for.”