Pa. Wing Chaplain: CAP Role ‘Simply a Will of God’
1st Lt. Rusana Kasriel
Public Affairs Officer
For Rabbi Mark Shulman, becoming a Civil Air Patrol chaplain was neither planned nor on any “bucket list.” As a fulltime rabbi leading a congregation in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, his life was full.
“It was simply a will of God,” Shulman said, that got him involved with CAP. He has served as the Pennsylvania Wing's chaplain since Oct. 2.
The journey started when someone told him about the organization. Even though he grew up as an Air Force brat, Shulman had never heard of CAP. So when a congregant approached him, his response was, “What is that?”
While attending a squadron meeting, Shulman fell in love with the mission and, of course, he was invited to join the Chaplain Corps. “You’re a rabbi – we need chaplains!” he was told.
That was the beginning of the adventure of a lifetime. It’s not easy to become a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force auxiliary. Civil Air Patrol chaplains are the only members of the organization who can directly serve Air Force active, Reserve and National Guard units. Accordingly, they must pass the same muster as their active and reserve counterparts.
Shulman received his commission as a CAP chaplain July 7, 2015. That’s when he realized he was not an island, but part of a team — an important point, as many see the Chaplain Corps as detached from the rest of CAP.
Now a chaplain captain, Shulman credits Lt. Col. Dane Carroll, commander of the Pennsylvania Wing’s Lehigh Valley Composite Squadron 296, with helping integrate him to serve in a capacity that would make a difference.
It was Carroll who encouraged him to become a part of a CAP aircrew so he could be connected more deeply in the mission — not only to the community but also to cadets and senior members. In the Chaplain Corps, it’s called a “Ministry of Presence.”
Shulman’s first test as a chaplain came when he staffed the Pennsylvania Wing’s 2016 encampment and worked side-by-side with his mentor, Chaplain, Lt. Col. Randall Matheny, who showed him the ropes of being effective in stress-filled environment, not just for cadets but for senior members.
He spent some long hours ministering day and night during the encampment. Sometimes a chaplain is the difference-maker, not just for cadets but for senior members who find themselves under stress dealing with other senior members or cadets or personal struggles. The victories were won, cadets secured, senior members undergirded and friendships forged.
Shulman not only changed lives but also created friendships. Staff Sgt. Shawn Utermohlen of Quakertown Composite Squadron 904, also a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, and his now-wife Toby asked him to preside over their wedding Nov 24.
“It was a wonderful blend of traditions and having CAP and the USAF front and center,” Shulman said.
Indeed, over the past few years he has served fellow CAP members at funerals, memorial services and other lifetime or organization events.
Members don’t often hear about CAP chaplains who diligently and quietly go about ministering to the needs of Civil Air Patrol and their communities across the country, yet their presence — like Shulman’s — is always felt whenever the need arises.