Cooney retires after more than 30 years of service to the Air Force and Air National Guard

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Joshua Horton
  • 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
After more than 30 years of service to the active-duty Air Force and Air National Guard, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Patrick M. Cooney was officially retired in a ceremony here Dec. 7.

Col. Ken Dale, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, expressed his appreciation to Cooney during the ceremony, telling an audience of more than 100 Airmen, friends and family members that the chaplain's impact will be felt for years to come.

"Please know that his time was well spent," Dale told the audience, gathered in the Main Hangar. "He has saved careers, marriages and lives during his time here with his wise council and advice. I would venture to say that there is not a life out here that he has not touched with his work at the Kentucky Air National Guard. He's made an everlasting impression."

Col. Michael Cooper, commander of the 123rd Medical Group, expressed similar sentiments.

"Chaplain Cooney, as medical professionals, we envy you," Cooper said. "We work to save lives. That's a temporary proposition at best. Your work, sir, has the potential to last for all eternity. The 123rd Medical Group wishes you well. You will always have a special place in our hearts."

Cooney attended Officer Training School in August 1981 at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. After graduation, he was assigned to Shemya Air Force Base, Alaska, where he worked in the Avionics Branch of the Engineering Division of Systems Command and was eventually assigned to the Maverick Missile Program Office as an engineer on the Laser Maverick. Cooney served a research and developmental engineer who worked on ground-, sea- and air-launched cruise missiles.

From July 1984 until July 1985, he was the detachment commander for the Foreign Technology Division of System Command at Shemya Air Force Base. While with Space Command at the Cobra Dane Radar Site, Cooney was responsible for collecting and analyzing data that was then transmitted to others in the intelligence community. He was later assigned to the Armament Division of System Command and worked on an air-to-ground missile program.

Cooney left active duty in July of 1986 as a captain and entered the Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Indiana, in the fall of 1986. He joined the Air Force Chaplain Candidate Program at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, following his third year at the seminary in June of that year and spent the rest of the summer as a chaplain candidate at the Air Force Academy.

He was ordained for the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois, on June 1, 1991. Cooney came to the Saint Meinrad community and professed vows as a Benedictine monk on Aug. 6, 1995. His final vows were professed on Aug. 15, 1998.

Cooney joined the Kentucky Air National Guard in October 2000 and became the Catholic chaplain before also being named wing chaplain. As the wing chaplain, he set forth a concept that assigned a chaplain to each of the individual groups of the KYANG. Cooney was the designated chaplain to the Maintenance and Medical Groups and ministered to both of them, as well as the others, for all 14 years. During his more than 30 years of service, Cooney completed numerous deployments, including tours of duty at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, where he flew missions in and out of Saudi Arabia every other week to minister at Eskon Village and the U.S. Embassy.

In addition to teaching duties at Saint Meinrad, Cooney is associate information dean in the seminary. He serves as Defender of the Bond for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the Diocese of Evansville, Indiana.

As the ceremony came to a close, Dale gave some final remarks to the outgoing chaplain.

"Some people can live an entire lifetime and wonder if they've ever made a difference," Dale said. "Chaplain, you should not have that problem. While he may argue that he has done nothing special, the rest of us here know that he has, and how simply invaluable he is to us. He has touched our lives in a number of different ways and has had a profound impact on us all.

"Thank you, Chaplain Cooney," Dale continued. "The men and women of the Kentucky Air National Guard are proud to have served with you. Your knowledge, wisdom and dedication will be sorely missed by all. We wish you well as you begin the next chapter of your life."