First Lt. Saleha Jabeen, a graduate of Basic Chaplain Course Class 21A, raises her hands in prayer during a group prayer at the start of the graduation ceremony Feb. 5, 2021, at the Ira C. Eaker Center for Leadership Development on Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. Jabeen, a native of India, is the first female Muslim chaplain to serve in the U.S. military.
The graduation ceremony for BCC Class 21A was a historic event as the Air Force aims to foster a more diverse and inclusive service.
Jabeen, a native of India, said she was grateful for the opportunity and aware of the responsibility she has to set an example and show that there is a place in the military for anyone who wants to serve.
“I did not have to compromise on any of my religious beliefs or convictions,” Jabeen said. “I am surrounded with people who respect me and are willing to receive what I bring to the table as a woman, a faith leader, and an immigrant. I am provided with numerous opportunities to learn and develop skills that best equip me to be a successful officer and a chaplain in a pluralistic environment. I get to provide spiritual care to all service members, Guardians, and families and advise the commanders on religious and moral matters regardless of my faith, ethnicity, or gender. Like our boss says, it has never been a better time to serve as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Chaplain Corps.”
All BCC students have advanced degrees and many arrive at the Chaplain Corps College with years of experience as members of the clergy as civilians. Throughout the course, Jabeen and her classmates are instructed how to apply their prior experience within the Air Force.
“My goal is to create chaplains who are ready to provide front-line ministry upon graduation,” said Capt. John Richardson, Air Force Chaplain Corps College staff chaplain. “They are trained to lead the units they serve spiritually. The bottom line is to care for Airmen — every single Airman. When they care for Airmen in a professional way, every other aspect of our calling falls into place: advising leaders and providing for the religious needs of our force.”
Capt. Mara Title, Air Force Chaplain Corps College staff chaplain, believes the newly-graduated students are ready to provide for the spiritual needs of all Airmen across the force, and said Jabeen’s addition to the chaplain corps will be of great benefit to everyone.
“The Air Force Chaplain Corps endeavors to promote diversity in all respects,” Title said. “Chaplain Saleha Jabeen’s presence enables an even broader scope of spiritual care for our Airmen, and for this we are very grateful. She is as determined to take on the role of chaplain as she is kind, caring and compassionate. We are thrilled to have had the opportunity for her to graduate with the class of BCC 21A.”
Jabeen is passionate about her role as a chaplain, and takes her duty as a spiritual mentor very seriously.
“We all have a purpose that is specifically meant for us to fulfill,” Jabeen said. “We must listen to our heart and follow our conviction. It is important to have people in our lives who model that for us. Choose that kind of mentorship and choose good companionship. I just want people to remember that God, or higher power or the values that people uphold, reminds us that we all are created with a plan: to become the best versions of ourselves. There is a ‘why’ for our existence and ultimately it is meant for us to be the best versions of ourselves. Commit to it, accomplish it and uplift others to do the same. Do all that needs to be done with kindness, generosity, resilience, and the grit to never quit.”