154th Wing Chaplain comes full circle
By Senior Airman Orlando Corpuz, 154th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 16, 2016
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Leah Boling always knew she wanted to be involved with religion. As a young girl growing up in Mindanao, Philippines, the call to serve in religion was a strong and obvious one.
Now a Lt. Col. in the U.S. Air Force, Boling lives out that calling as the Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Wing Chaplain.
"I believe even at a young age, I already wanted to be one, even though I really didn't know there was such a thing as a chaplain." said Boling, recalling her childhood days.
"At a very early age, I witnessed an old lady who was a member of our church visiting the hospital. I found out later she was a volunteer chaplain. I asked my mom what that means and she explained that the lady visits the sick, prays with them, and even sings to them. She's there to just provide comfort to the patients and their families."
Although Boling knew early on she would eventually work in religion in some sort of capacity, that capacity wasn't fully apparent until one day in 2001.
"It was after 9/11 happened. I realized the military needs me to help the airmen." Boling said.
As the 154th Wing's first and only female chaplain, Boling oversees the Wing's Religious Support Team which administers Chaplain services to over 2,500 Hawaii Air National Guard Airmen.
"I am truly honored to be the first and only woman chaplain for our Wing." said Boling.
"I make sure the Wing is allowing our airmen their religious freedom, which is their right." she said. "I also make sure my chaplains are advising commanders with regard to moral, morale, spiritual, and ethical issues."
Boling and husband Jeff, a retired U.S. Air Force Senior NCO, have an eighteen year old daughter, Shekina together. She says the most enjoyable thing about being a chaplain is helping people.
"I like talking to people. I like helping them with their problems." said Boling. "I also like celebrating with them either through weddings or birth of a child. I especially like providing marriage counseling."
Although not a requirement, the 154th Wing's Chaplain Team is tasked with administering the Strong Bonds program which focuses on marriage enrichment.
"Strong Bonds is a unit-based, chaplain led program which helps our airmen to build their resiliency by focusing on their marriages as well as strengthen their communication skills." said Boling. "We usually offer one event every quarter. These events are divided into couples, singles, and families."
Boling manages a busy schedule. In addition to her drill status duties as 154th Wing Chaplain, Boling also acts as its Suicide Prevention Manager. And Boling is currently on MPA tour as the full-time Command Chaplain for Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC), a position she has held since December, 2014.
For Boling, service in religion came full circle when she was able to return to the country of her birth as a U.S. Air Force Chaplain in support of Operation Enduring Freedom - Philippines.
"Being deployed in support of OEF-Philippines was very hectic but also very rewarding. My chaplain assistant and I got to minister not only to our U.S. forces, but to the Philippine Armed Forces personnel and their families as well." said Boling. "We also got to minister to the local communities."