Air Force Chief of Chaplains Cites Influence of CAP Cadet Experience
Lt. Col. Tim Miner
On Aug. 21, U.S. Air Force Chaplain Steven A. Schaick pinned on the rank of major general and assumed his new position as the Air Force’s 19th chief of chaplains. Now at the pinnacle of his career, Schaick can trace his success and inspiration to a path that began during his cadet days in Civil Air Patrol.
The Oshkosh, Wisconsin, native grew up taking in the local annual air show – one of the largest in the U.S. To get closer to airplanes and aviation, he joined the local CAP squadron while in high school.
Schaick describes his cadet time as “an opportunity to begin earning a private pilot’s certificate. and to learn more about aviation and the ways in which aviators serve our community.“
Upon graduation from high school in 1976, he enlisted in the Air Force. He chose the longest technical school available and literally got his hands on the hottest fighter in the inventory while serving as an F-15 Integrated avionics component specialist. During this time, Airman Schaick aimed higher and reached to serve as an officer.
In 1980, with a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin, Schaick – now an ROTC cadet – earned a coveted slot for pilot training in the Air Force after commissioning. While at the university he was inspired to pursue an even higher calling – to serve as a spiritual leader for the men and women in the Air Force – which led him to decline his pilot training slot and seek the path of a chaplain.
He describes his decision to go to seminary rather than pilot training as “the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make.”
Schaick received his commission as a chaplain candidate in the Air Force Reserve in 1986. In 1988 he was appointed as an active-duty chaplain with the rank of captain, and his spiritual service took off. He served in a variety of staff chaplain assignments around the world, from Arkansas to Germany, Turkey and Arlington National Cemetery.
He served a three-year tour as the director of Cadet Spiritual and Character Development, a division in the Air Force Academy’s Center for Character Development . There, Schaick said, “I had the privilege of helping cadets develop the kind of character taxpayers expect of commissioned officers.”
He was destined to move up to leadership in military ministry. His command chaplain billets were in special operations units and at the Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command. Before assuming the chief’s position, he was assigned to the Air Force’s Pentagon headquarters as the deputy chief in 2015.
The former Wisconsin Wing cadet now advises the chief of staff of the Air Force on religious and moral issues that affect more than 655,000 active and reserve airmen. He directs policy for over 2,000 chaplains and religious affairs airmen serving around the world.
Looking back on his career, Schaick reflected on the impact of his time in CAP. “I had no way to know how my life would play out, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my time as a CAP cadet helped prepare me for the work and calling God would one day reveal to me.”