"What I told the congregation Sunday is 'No. 1, I love Jesus Christ,'" the new 75th Air Base Wing Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Kenneth Crooks recalled about his introductory sermon on Jan. 17 at Hill Air Force Base.
"I am a Christian. That is a part of me, I can't deny that. The other thing I told them is I understand there are differences (among religions) and there are some things we cannot do together, but there are a lot of things that we can do together. I want the parishes and communities to do as many things as we can do together to build up, encourage and help this community."
Crooks has been a chaplain in the Air Force for more than 23 years and comes to Hill AFB from Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., where he served as the wing chaplain for the 27th Special Operations Wing, Air Force Special Operations Command. Crooks deployed three times in the four and a half years he was assigned to Cannon AFB and he says he developed a passion for supporting deployed Airmen and those who are deployed from other branches of the Department of Defense.
To continue supporting the warfighters, Crooks says the base chapel staff "will send our chaplains and chaplain assistants when they are called upon."
Crooks will also continue supporting the renowned Air Expeditionary Forces weekend retreats the 75th Air Base Wing chaplains and the Wolf Creek Foundation have hosted past three years. The retreats offer a low cost family enrichment program at a scenic resort that helps families whose military member is facing a deployment create bonding experiences and good memories for the families to build upon during the separation.
"It's a good thing for our people and helps our deployed and deploying families," said Crooks.
The wing chaplain will continue supporting other programs that were started by his predecessors that he believes make a positive impact on the Hill AFB community, such as the flight line ministry and the chapel's support of the Junior Enlisted Center. He also inherited the tail end of the Base Chapel renovation project and will be happy to lead the first sermon after its completion in the spring.
Overall, Crooks maintains his focus and the attention of others away from himself. Instead, he would like recognition to go to those who work hard every day to build the community he has now inherited.
"It's not about me; it is about taking care of people and building this community. Even though the community is different and the mission of the base is different (from Cannon AFB), people still have the basic needs of being loved, accepted, cared for and helped.
"I'd rather people not know about me but rather our great chapel staff. They are the ones that do the hard work."