We are one among many: Black History Month spotlight
By Senior Airman Cody Dowell, Altus Air Force Base Public Affairs
/ Published February 28, 2019
ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Throughout America’s history, people have come from many different locations and backgrounds to contribute to the benefit of the nation. For one Air Force chaplain, Black History Month is a reminder of those who came together to form what this nation’s military and country is today.
The U.S. Air Force is comprised of different cultures and ethnicities. All of these members come together to be part of a bigger picture. U.S. Air Force Chaplain Lt. Col. Steve Dabbs, the wing chaplain of the 97th Air Mobility Wing, recalls what Black History Month truly represents.
“I think it comes down to the minority simply getting their voices heard and having equal treatment and care, equal to the majority,” said Dabbs. “The month is a reminder that we have to make an active effort in today’s times to think of the smaller people; the little guys have a voice as well and they should be treated just like anybody else.”
Even in Dabbs’ own career, he has experienced the unintentional overlooking of the minority vote.
“At one point in my career, I supervised six company grade officer [CGO] chaplains,” said Dabbs. “I held a planning meeting once with five Christian chaplains including myself, a Roman Catholic Priest, and a Rabbi. After about an hour of discussion, I was confident we had reached a strong plan of care for our wing. As I was about to adjourn the meeting, the priest raised his hand and asked, ‘What about me?’ That moment confirmed for me how the volume of the majority voice can drown out unintentionally or intentionally the voice of the minority.”
It was always important to Dabbs that everyone’s voice was heard. This led to his goal of becoming part of something bigger than himself.
“I grew up in a Christian home, but I didn’t grow up in a biblical home so I never imagined myself pursuing that life style,” said Dabbs. “When I was 16, I felt a calling from God to be part of something bigger, so that is when I knew to pursue that path.”
On Dabbs’ path of pursuing an education in religion, he was part of the U.S. Army Reserves. It was during that time that he deployed and worked with an Air Force chaplain.
“After seeing how hard that chaplain worked and seeing all the time he put into his job, I knew I never wanted to be a military chaplain,” said Dabbs. “Obviously, it ended up growing on me and I spent three years interning with Air Force Chaplains before becoming one myself.”
Having a call to being part of something bigger than himself was a trait learned from a person dear to him his entire life.
“My grandmother has always been a great part of my life,” said Dabbs. “She lived nearly a century and passed three weeks after her 95th birthday. She lived through two world wars, the Vietnam War, Korean War and the Civil Rights era. She outlived all of her siblings, buried two of her own children and was a survivor of cancer. She didn’t have a high school diploma because her mother became very sick and she had to take care of her. Then she took care of my mother when she came home at age 16, pregnant with me. She was quiet but a strong influence in our community - hardworking, well respected, peace-loving and the strongest example of resiliency I’ve ever seen.”
That inspirational figure helped mold Dabbs into the chaplain leading the Altus base Chapel today. He is tasked with accommodating the religious needs of military members and their families, but that is not all.
“If you think about it, the Chapel deals with all facets of comprehensive Airmen fitness,” said Dabbs. “Most people just think of the spiritual aspect, but we assist with talking about Airmen’s mental and social state and even assist with some classes about physical fitness. The Chapel is here to make sure our Airmen are fit to fight in every aspect.”
Through some research of his own heritage, Dabbs discovered that a majority of his DNA was 82 percent African and 15 percent European. Knowing his own heritage, it helped guide his understanding of diversity.
“Learning my heritage helped me realize it doesn’t matter where I’m from or anybody else because we all are 100 percent diverse,” said Dabbs. “We are in a society today that grows unity among diversity. Like this nation’s Air Force, among the many we are one and that’s all that matters at the end of the day.”