MUÑIZ AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Puerto Rico --
When we need support, encouragement or just someone to talk to, we know that our chaplains corps is always there for us. However, rarely do they get to take the spotlight. The 156th Wing chaplain corps stands out for recent accomplishments and historic events throughout their ranks.
Recently, Capt. Iraida Alvarez Carrasquillo became the first-ever female acting wing chaplain in the Puerto Rico Air National Guard. Capt. Alvarez joined the Puerto Rico Air National Guard after serving for seven years in the Air Force Reserves.
“Chaplain Alvarez is an amazing Airman,” said Maj. David Sarmiento, the Advise and Assist Team chaplain with the 156th Wing. “What Capt. Alvarez brings to the table is the collaboration piece because having been a chaplain candidate, she went to various active duty bases and she got the experience of what it is to work with all these resiliency resources.”
Another recent accomplishment of the chaplain’s office is Senior Airman Noreisy Betancourt as the first PRANG Airman to earn distinguished graduate in the religious affairs technical school.
Senior Airman Noresiy Betancourt cross-trained from a firefighter with the 156th Civil Engineer Squadron, to become a religious affairs Airman during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Never in the history of our office at the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, have we had a distinguished graduate,” said Sarmiento.
Another unique event for the 156th Wing’s chaplain corps is Airman 1st Class Yobeth Cruz became the first non-prior enlisted member in Air National Guard history to attend the religious affairs technical school without first having a 5 skill-level in another career field, according to Chaplain Sarmiento.
"Ordinarily you have to be prior-enlisted and have a 5-level in another [Air Force Specialty Code] before you can become a religious affairs Airman because of the confidentiality requirements," said Sarmiento.
Cruz joined the religious affairs team after completing a three-panel interview and getting special permission from the National Guard Bureau to attend the religious affairs technical school after completing basic military training.
“We spoke with our Functional Area Manager at the National Guard Bureau, he agreed that he would make us the beta for the Air National Guard enterprise," said Sarmiento. “No other Air National Guard wing in the enterprise has had the opportunity to bring a non-prior student into the religious affairs career field.”
Chaplain Sarmiento has served with the 156th Wing chaplain corps for more than a year with the National Guard Bureau Advise and Assist Team.
“I served a year-long tour here as part of the Advise and Assist Team and am currently serving to ensure the success of the 156th chaplain corps in the new Resiliency Center, equipping them with everything they need to know,” said Sarmiento.
Chaplain Sarmiento is proud of how the 156th Wing chaplain corps has performed and is excited to continue seeing the positive things happening in the unit.