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NORAD/NORTHCOM chaplain to speak at prayer luncheon

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Chaplain (Col.) Jay Johns, III, command chaplain for North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, is the featured speaker for the National Prayer Luncheon sponsored by the 21st Space Wing Chapel , 11 a.m., Mar. 18 at the Peterson Club. (courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Chaplain (Col.) Jay Johns, III, command chaplain for North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, is the featured speaker for the National Prayer Luncheon sponsored by the 21st Space Wing Chapel , 11 a.m., Mar. 18 at the Peterson Club. (courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 21st Space Wing Chapel is holding a National Prayer luncheon Mar. 18, 11:00 a.m. at the Peterson Club. National Prayer events have been celebrated since 1953 when members of the Senate, House of Representatives and President Eisenhower established the first National Prayer event.

Speaker for this year's event is Chaplain (Col.) Jay Johns III, NORAD/NORTHCOM command chaplain. Johns, a U.S. Army Colonel, brings along a wealth of ministerial experience in both civilian and military environments. His topic is The Real Strength of Strong Leaders.

"We often make the mistake of assuming that leadership is position.  It is not.  Leadership is influence.  Since all of us, to some degree or another, exert influence we may as well lead effectively and consciously," Johns said.

People often picture strong leaders as possessing a booming voice, swagger, or an unrealistic level of charisma Johns said. But at the bottom line, regardless of personality traits, strong and effective leaders are those who add value to the people with whom they serve. 

"They bring life to their organizations," he said, "they do not pollute. Character determines whether leaders build healthy teams or create toxic environments."

Prayer is a vital part of the spiritual pillar of the Air Force fitness concept. Johns believes it is important to bring ones concerns before God in prayer. The process helps put things in perspective, and can bring about a peaceful spirit even in the midst of the worst storms of life he said.

"Perhaps the most important aspect of prayer is listening. It is a daily challenge for me.  My hope is that, with each and every passing year, I become more interested in seeing things the way God sees them than in trying to convince God to see things the way I do," Johns said.

"We speak often in the Air Force about resiliency and the four pillar concept of fitness -- mental, physical, social, and spiritual. Cultivating a life of prayer - through praise, through introspection, through meditation - is one way of strengthening that spiritual pillar," said Chaplain (Capt.) Richard Casey, 21st Space Wing Chaplain's office.

Hosting national prayer luncheons help provide time out from the hectic life Airmen may experience with high operations tempo, frequent TDYs and deployments, as well as emergency taskings.

"As Airmen serving in our armed forces, we're quite often very busy protecting our nation's freedoms," Casey said. "The National Prayer Luncheon provides an opportunity for us to gather together and both practice and celebrate the religious freedoms we enjoy in this country, regardless of our religious affiliation."

Johns served as a hospital chaplain for a year and three years as a pastor before entering the Army chaplaincy. Those years, he said, were a tremendous benefit. 

"The Army Chaplain Corps views the chaplain as a composite of four roles: Pastor, Soldier, Leader, and Staff Officer.  The Army can teach staff and soldier skills to new chaplains at the Chaplain Basic Officer Leader Course.  But I believe that chaplains must arrive at the basic course with their pastoral identity and leadership skills strongly formed.  The best place for that to occur, in my opinion, is in the local congregation. I think my prior ministry experience helped me greatly as I transitioned onto active duty."

While attending seminary a neighbor introduced him to the idea of becoming an Army chaplain. While he had not considered the chaplaincy, Johns said he was open to God's direction for his ministry. The neighbor had become a person of faith while in the Army, through the ministry of his battalion chaplain.

"I am so thankful for that encounter. I joined the National Guard as a chaplain about a year after graduation and served three years total in that capacity before entering active duty in 1994," he said.

The intent of the luncheon is to provide spiritual refreshing for those who attend, but Casey hopes some valuable lessons are learned as well.

"I hope those who attend the luncheon take away a few things. First, Americans, both in uniform and in the civilian world, have the freedom to worship how they choose, and that this freedom is worth protecting, celebrating, and cherishing," he said.  "Second, prayer nourishes our spiritual health, which strengthens our ability to endure the hardships life throws our way." 

Johns wants attendees to leave the event with a few leadership tools that can be immediately applied to make work, home and even sports environments the best they can be.

"I want to remind the participants of a few central concepts about leadership and character formation that have stood the test of time," Johns said.

Casey wants people to take Johns' message to heart. The message is applicable to all, whether just beginning a military career or the day before retirement.

There is a $7 charge for lunch. To register contact Casey at 556-4442, or by evite.

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