Double Duty: 'Father John' Serves Air Force, CAP as Chaplain
When John F. Reutemann III, who serves as a chaplain in both Civil Air Patrol and the U.S. Air Force, was promoted to Air Force major Nov. 3, he marked yet another milestone in his journey serving members of CAP and the military.
Reutemann, who many in CAP and the Air Force call “Father John,” is an instructor at the U.S. Air Force Chaplain Corps College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama — also the home of CAP National Headquarters.
He serves as the course director for the Embedded Religious Support Team Course after previously serving as one of two course directors for the Basic Chaplain Course, which all new active-duty, National Guard and Reserve Air Force chaplains attend.
Reutemann holds the rank of chaplain lieutenant colonel in CAP. He joined the organization in August 1996 as a cadet in the Maryland Wing's Bethesda-Chevy Chase Composite Squadron. He served as the cadet commander for both his squadron and his group. He was also very involved in the wing’s honor guard.
In addition, he served on the cadet advisory councils at the wing, Middle East (now Mid-Atlantic) Region, and national levels and attended the Tri-Wing Encampment each summer from 1998-2003, ultimately serving as encampment cadet commander.
He also participated in two National Flight Academies; National Blue Beret twice, including as cadet commander, and the International Air Cadet Exchange Program twice, visiting Canada in 2000 and Belgium in 2002.
Reutemann completed the CAP cadet program and earned the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz Award, the organization’s top cadet honor, in 2002.
On the verge of accepting an appointment to the U. S. Air Force Academy, he felt a calling to the priesthood instead, so he applied to his hometown Archdiocese of Washington, D.C, and began his eight years of seminary studies right after graduating high school in 2002.
Feeling that his call to ministry came in addition to — not instead of — his call to serve in the military, once he completed his undergraduate seminary he applied to the Air Force’s Chaplain Candidate Program. During the summer between his fifth and sixth years of seminary, he completed Officer Training School and the Chaplain Candidate Course.
Reutemann completed seminary in May 2010 and was ordained a priest one month later, always keeping his CAP membership and his commission as a chaplain candidate current.
After the mandatory three years of civilian ministry, he entered active duty as a chaplain in 2013. He has since served as a group chaplain at both Malmstrom AFB, Montana, and Keesler AFB, Mississippi, pastoring the Catholic communities at each base. He also completed a one-year residency in Clinical Pastoral Education at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
Before his current assignment, Reutemann served as an embedded chaplain at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, Alaska. He has completed two deployments to the Middle East, during which he traveled throughout nine countries, conducting mass in five languages, often as the only Catholic chaplain for joint and coalition partners.
In CAP, he has served as the commander of the Maryland Wing squadron he founded, the Charles County Composite Squadron; as Montana Wing director of cadet programs and chaplain; as Rocky Mountain Region deputy chief of staff for cadet programs.
Reutemann completed Level V of CAP's professional development program, earning the Gill Robb Wilson Award, and returned to National Staff College as a seminar group adviser.
He's currently co-director of the CAP Chaplain Corps College — the final portion of the Auxiliary Chaplain Course, whereby CAP chaplains become fully certified to replace active-duty chaplains in the event of contingency operations.
At his Air Force promotion ceremony at Maxwell, Reutemann thanked various CAP representatives in attendance. He credited the organization with shaping him into the officer, priest, and chaplain he is today.
“CAP should be proud of its growing legacy of providing our world with not just military officers of character, but also doctors, teachers, industry leaders, and even priests like me,” Reutemann said.
"Seminary may have made me a priest, but CAP first made me a member of society who cares about integrity, service, excellence, and respect.”
Two of those present for the promotion ceremony were Col. Robin Vest, Idaho Wing commander, and her husband, Col. Warren Vest, commander of the wing's Legislative Squadron. The couple have known Reutemann since his cadet days in Maryland nearly three decades ago.
“’Father John’ is a lot of fun but also very caring and understanding,” Robin Vest said.
“The cadets love him,” she said, recalling that during the inaugural University of Rocky Mountain Region in 2018, Reutemann “ran the Honor Guard Academy portion of the activity. It was not unusual to see cadets gathered around John during free time, since he was an Air Force activity-duty officer serving in Texas. "
“He was always available to offer advice and suggestions when questions were posed to him," Robin Vest said.
And when Reutemann led the Rocky Mountain Region facet of the International Air Cadet Exchange in the summer of 2019, she said, “’Father John’ had a great rapport with all the foreign cadets. You could tell they admired him greatly."
“We could not have been prouder of what he has accomplished in his life and value his friendship every day.”
This profile of U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Maj) and Civil Air Patrol Chaplain (Lt. Col.) John F. Reutemann III is 17th in a regular series of articles showcasing how CAP and its members make an impact throughout the nation.