MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho — For some children growing up, they either know what they want to be or don’t. For Lt. Col. Ismael Rodriguez, 366th Fighter Wing wing chaplain, he knew what he wanted to do and wasn’t going to let anything stop him.
“I just had this calling to serve God in some capacity,” said Rodriguez.
Growing up, Rodriguez’s family wasn’t religious and were shocked when he told them he wanted to become a catholic priest. When he asked his parents if he could attend a local private catholic school, they instead enrolled him into a private Baptist school.
“I accepted my parent’s decision and after my first day I became intrigued and began to research more into the protestant religion,” said Rodriguez.
Shortly after graduating Rodriguez decided to go on a missionary trip to India for a year. During his time in India he helped the homeless and orphaned children by cooking meals for them and conducting ministries.
Rodrigues said this helped confirm in his heart that he was meant to help mankind in any way he could. After his missionary trip, he decided to go to college. He went to Texas Christian University at Fort Wort, Texas and obtained his bachelors in science and psychology, and a masters in divinity.
“When I finished I got to serve in churches and I worked as a director of a non-profit organization in Houston Texas, helping homeless families and children,” said Rodriguez. “I did that for a few years and then I decided to join the Air Force Reserves, where my faith was put to the test.”
During physical training, Rodriguez received a phone call from the command post saying someone wanted to talk to the chaplain. The Airman told him he was considering suicide and didn’t know who to turn to, except the chapel. After talking to the Airman for a few hours he was able to talk the individual down and get him the help he needed.
“Being able to help that Airman find a reason to continue living, to have hope and a purpose for life was an amazing feeling,” Rodriguez said. “After that it increased my desire to join the Active Duty side of the Air Force to help other Airmen.”
This year marks 20 years of Chaplain Rodriguez being in the Air Force and 34 years overall in the ministry.
Rodriguez said the chaplains and chaplain assistance are always here for Airmen and their families. Some of the programs they provide are marriage counseling, grief counseling, protestant and catholic services and a child ministry called “approved workers are not ashamed”, or otherwise known as AWANAs.
“Find your purpose and hold onto it. It can be anything from family, friends, hobbies, or schooling,” Rodgriguez said. “It is the key to keep you going.”