Becoming Chaplain Castillo

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alexi Bosarge
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. – Everyone joins the military for different reasons, whether a new experience or an opportunity to go to college. One young man made the decision to join the U.S. Air Force, but it was more than he ever expected it to be.


“I was a senior in high school, my parents were divorced and I knew we couldn’t afford college,” said Lt. Col. Paul Castillo, 22nd Air Refueling Wing chaplain. “My dad came up to me one day and said you have four choices: the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps’.”


Castillo joined the Air Force with the hopes of becoming a combat medic. Eventually, he trained to become a dental laboratory technician and later became a medical administrative specialist.


During his time as an enlisted Airmen, Castillo began feeling lonely — no friends, no family and no social support. Then, after the death of a good friend, he decided that he needed to go see a chaplain. This one decision would change his life forever.



“In a great time of need, a chaplain was there for me as a young staff sergeant,” said Castillo. “I wanted to give the way that chaplain did for me in my time of need.”


The session with the chaplain lasted three hours. Their conversation would have such an enormous impact on young Castillo that he would change his life course to become a chaplain himself. 


Castillo began finishing his degree and also switched to the Air Force Reserves so he could become a full-time chaplain at a maximum security psychiatric center in order to earn the two years of experience needed to become an Air Force Chaplain.


“Many of the inmates that attended the chapel services were always very appreciative of it,” said Castillo. “I felt that I was there to let them know that someone was there for them.”


The diversity of religions in the prison system varied from Buddhism, Hinduism, the Nation of Islam to many varieties of Christian denominations. Castillo said this system helped him learn that showing respect and dignity let the inmates know that someone genuinely cared.


“Everything worked out in a way that I could have never designed,” said Castillo.


After finishing all of the requirements to become an Air Force Chaplain, Castillo would go on to serve for 22 years and counting.


“This was never about a career it was about a calling,” said Castillo. “What keeps me going is knowing that it is not about me, it is about taking care of Airmen and families.”


Castillo works hard every day to ensure that every member of Team McConnell knows the Chaplains are there for them to provide Airmen confidential counseling as well as conduct worship services for all members with access to the installation.


“Chaplain Castillo is constantly asking how we are doing and if we need anything,” said Airman 1st Class Brittany Gomez, 22nd Air Refueling Wing chaplain assistant. “I think it really shows how much he cares about Airmen.”


After 37 years of total service to the Air Force, Castillo plans to serve a chaplain as long as he can.


“I knew when I became a chaplain, in my heart I wanted to stay as long as I could to help,” said Castillo.