Curry retires from service, ending career spanning more than three decades

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Diane Stinnett
  • 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
After more than 30 years of service to the Air National Guard, Chaplain (Col.) Thomas Curry was officially retired in a ceremony here June 7.

Brig. Gen. Steven P.  Bullard, chief of staff for Headquarters, Kentucky Air National Guard, praised Curry for his dedication to the unit, addressing an audience that included current and retired members of the Kentucky Air Guard as well as many members of Parkland Baptist Church in Louisville, where Curry has been a civilian pastor since 1984.

"He became a fixture in our lives, spreading good cheer and sage words of advice, almost always with a healthy helping of humor," Bullard said. "The work of Tom and the entire religious support team here has been an essential element in our success, which is significant."

Curry, a graduate of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, grew up in rural Louisiana where he watched B-52s fly overhead and dreamed of being a pilot. When he was 16, however, Curry felt God calling him to a life in the ministry. Shortly after becoming the pastor at Parkland Baptist Church, Curry was approached by retired Kentucky Air Guard chaplain Lt. Col. Bob Williams about joining the unit. During his interview with then-wing commander Gen. John L. Smith, Curry was invited to sit in the cockpit of an RF-4C jet.

The rest is history.

"It's the honest truth, my first dream was to be in the Air Force and be around airplanes," Curry told the audience. "The second dream was the one God gave to me -- that I would preach the gospel. And for the last 29 years, I've lived those two dreams."

Twice during his career, Curry was called to minister to a unit in mourning. In 1992, when an entire Kentucky Air Guard aircrew was lost in an aircraft mishap, Curry was heavily involved in the memorial service and continued to provide counseling to family members for years afterward, often on his own time.

In 2001, he drew on that experience when the Virginia National Guard's 203rd Red Horse Squadron lost of 18 airmen in an aircraft accident. Curry also responded to communities affected by natural disasters on multiple occasions, including flooding and ice storms here in Kentucky, and hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast. In 2005, he deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.  

In 2010, Curry left the Kentucky Air Guard to become the Air National Guard assistant to the Air Mobility Command chaplain at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. There he ha¬d exposure and input into worldwide Air Mobility Command inspections, policy development and operations.

Following that assignment, he was appointed as the Air National Guard assistant to the command chaplain for the North American Aerospace Command and U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he worked with both American and Canadian national command leadership, participating in major exercises, providing ministry to senior leaders, advising on major policy issues and providing an Air National Guard perspective to U.S. Northern Command initiatives.

Before leaving the stage at his retirement ceremony, Curry had one last piece of advice for his flock at the 123rd Airlift Wing.

"Keep doing good things, keep being a blessing, because you have been a blessing to me. And I thank God for every one of you."