Air force chaplain keeps ‘true gospel faith front and center’

Rick Montoya (third from right), a member of Deatsville Baptist Church and recently pinned Air Force colonel, is headed to his next assignment this summer — command chaplain for Joint Base San Antonio in Texas.

Air force chaplain keeps ‘true gospel faith front and center’

Shannon Smith says that it doesn’t matter where Rick Montoya is — even if the place is small, he has a big influence.

He knows this starting from when he grew up attending special youth events with Mount Hebron (now Crossroads Community Church), Elmore — Montoya was the assistant youth group leader then. Through the years, they kept crossing paths — Montoya as an air force chaplain, Smith as an Air Force Security Forces officer.

And then back in August 2019, when Montoya began his educational assignment at Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, he showed up at Deatsville Baptist Church, where Smith had been serving as bivocational pastor since the beginning of the year.

“I’d had about six months under my belt as a pastor, and I’d done some things right and done some things wrong,” Smith said. “Rick helped steady me. He’s been an incredible mentor.”

Smith said he’s doubly in awe of how God brought Montoya to his rural church, which draws about 40 each Sunday.

In the past, Montoya has been the spiritual leader for thousands of military personnel. He’s been stationed in Virginia, Colorado, Turkey, Mississippi, Idaho, Florida, Germany and Alabama.

In his next assignment, Montoya — newly promoted to the rank of Colonel — will be the senior chaplain for Joint Base San Antonio in Texas. That includes personnel at Lackland AFB, Randolph AFB, Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis — around 80,000 full-time employees.

“It’s fun,” Montoya said. “It’s a lot to manage, but you don’t do it by yourself — you have others to help carry the load.”

‘Massive missions assignment’

God’s also given him preparation along the way, he said. He started out as an enlisted Airman before moving into ministry, and he’s walked through some hard times in his personal life through the years. He’s had a range of ministry opportunities, including serving as a chaplain to the Port of Mobile through Mobile Baptist Association.

And now caring for the spiritual welfare of the people protecting our nation is Montoya’s “Jerusalem,” he said — the place he understands the most. He’s grateful he gets to do what he loves while staying true to who he is as a Christ follower and Southern Baptist.

Smith said Montoya is the perfect person for this “massive missions assignment.”

“Rick’s the kind of guy who can keep our true gospel faith front and center while managing and taking care of a diverse group of chaplains with different belief systems and value sets that are reflective of the overall military,” he said. (TAB)