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123rd chaplain assistant moves into pastoral role at local church

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Billy Lain, a chaplain assistant in the 123rd Airlift Wing, prepares for Catholic Mass at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 22, 2014, as part of his normal duties. Lain, who will retire soon, is now the pastor of his own church in rural Indiana. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Billy Lain, a chaplain assistant in the 123rd Airlift Wing, prepares for Catholic Mass at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 22, 2014, as part of his normal duties. Lain, who will retire soon, is now the pastor of his own church in rural Indiana. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Senior Master Sgt. Billy Lain has been providing support to the chaplains of the 123rd Airlift Wing here for the past 13 years, serving in the role of chaplain assistant. Now, he will have the opportunity to lead a chapel of his own.

Lain is the new pastor for the Tell City Church of Christ in Tell City, Indiana, a small town of approximately 2,000 people, where he will minister full-time upon his retirement from the Air Guard in April.

Having a mechanical background in his youth, the Chaplain Corps was not Lain's first choice of occupations in the Air Force.

"During my active-duty days in 1978, I did electronic maintenance, then switched to supply during my short stint in the Army National Guard," Lain explained. "I didn't get to the chaplains program until after I came to the Kentucky Air Guard after an 18-year break in service."

The new career field proved unexpectedly challenging.

"I thought the school for this job would be a breeze compared to what I already had been through," he said. "Boy, was I wrong."

Lain's duties require him to be intricately familiar with several different worship preferences recognized by the Air Force. He helps facilitate the supplies needed to worship, ensures worship is accessible to Airmen, and works to identify and meet the needs of the base chaplains. He has also been deployed to several different U.S. and overseas locations, where he takes on the additional role of ensuring the safety of the chaplain he is assigned to.

"It is clearly evident how my role here has prepared me for my new job," Lain said. "My time here in the Guard has been invaluable; the life lessons, priceless."

Invaluable service to the Guard is only one of the many reasons why Lt. Col. James Ehrman, 123rd Airlift Wing chaplain, will miss Lain when he retires.

"Over the past years, working with Billy, we have been a team," Ehrman said. "He has never hesitated to give support as needed. He is very humble, and his ethic of service stands out. I have always thought of us as a team with a strong trust level.

"He will have no trouble going from a support role to a leadership role," Ehrman continued. "His having been a leader here will make him a stronger leader in his church."

Lain began his involvement in the Tell City church, which has a congregation of approximately 50, while working as a volunteer, then an elder, and finally into the pastoral position when the opening became available. He is currently working as the pastor now, but will completely move into the job when his duties here have ended.

"The church community has been very supportive of my role in the Air Guard and are very excited to have me come on board," Lain explained. "I will definitely miss the involvement I have here with the people at the base, but I know there are needs on the home front as well."