SAN ANTONIO, Texas (BP)–A Texas Baptist chaplain has been named deputy chief of the United States Air Force Chaplain Service.
Charlie Baldwin, who has served the last 18 months at Randolph Air Force Base, reports to his new post in Washington, D.C., April 5. His three-year assignment as deputy chief over 600 chaplains and 450 enlisted chaplains’ assistants is scheduled to begin May 1. Pending Senate approval, he will be promoted from colonel to brigadier general.
His new responsibilities will include giving advice to the Air Force chief of staff on matters of religion, morale and the spiritual welfare of the troops. In particular, he will be responsible for ensuring that the religious free exercise rights of Air Force personnel are guaranteed.
“When I preach, I sound like a Southern Baptist preacher, because that’s what I am,” he said. “I give an invitation at every chapel service in which I preach.
“But I also have a responsibility to ensure the rights of every member of the United States Air Force to practice his or her faith. The same constitutional guarantees that allow me the privilege of proclaiming a gospel message provide for the religious free exercise of every individual.”
Baldwin understands the balancing act that comes with being an evangelical Christian minister in a pluralistic context. His father served 22 years as an Air Force chaplain, and his grandparents served 30 years as Southern Baptist missionaries in China.
Baldwin is a 1969 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
“As a cadet, I was in a revival service at the Baptist church I attended when I felt the call into Christian service. But I still owed the Air Force five years for my education,” he said.
He was licensed to the gospel ministry while he was a cadet at the academy, but he fulfilled his military obligation as a rescue helicopter pilot in Vietnam, serving with the 37th and 40th air rescue and recovery squadrons.
After completing his term of service, he served five years as a civilian Baptist minister, completing his education at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
In January 1979, he was commissioned as a chaplain and assigned to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. His chaplaincy career has taken him to various posts around the United States, as well as to Italy and West Germany.
He was serving as senior chaplain at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in South Carolina when he was transferred along with those under his watch to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Storm.
“That was undoubtedly the most meaningful experience I have had,” he said. “I’ll never forget baptizing in the desert, using emptied missile containers.”