SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Capt. Lauren Hughes, Schriever chaplain, capped her time at Schriever Air Force Base with jokes, July 30, 2020 during her farewell at the Schriever Event Center.
During her more than two and a half years at Schriever, Hughes used to stop by offices and tell jokes to build rapport and morale.
“Why couldn’t the pony sing a lullaby?” Hughes asked an audience of 30 Airmen. “Because he was a little horse[hoarse].”
Some Airmen chuckled, a few jokingly groaned, and all in attendance grinned as Hughes cracked her signature smile following the jest.
Hughes created several events to support Schriever members including ‘A Night of Purposeful Painting’, a painting tutorial hosted on Zoom, organized ‘Walk with Purpose,’ a prayer walk to create spiritual growth and resilience, and a family retreat for Airmen.
Hughes sought to evoke the best qualities in everyone she met and led with her actions rather than words.
“This being my first assignment as a religious affairs Airman, I had no idea, expectations or guidelines,” said Staff Sgt. Lathaniel Leigh, Schriever Chapel Corps religious affairs Airman. “Chaplain Hughes immediately accepted me and took me under her wing. Not only is she a phenomenal chaplain, but she’s a phenomenal leader.”
Hughes learned how to become a leader from her predecessor, Capt. Portmann Werner, who helped Hughes plant seeds that blossomed throughout her time here.
During Hughes’ first week, Werner introduced her to leadership, secretaries and commanders and helped her get to know with Airmen.
“We went to a community event called Geek Lunch,” Hughes said. “We played old-school video games, board games and that was my first time interacting with the Airmen. That was a huge learning curve because I didn’t play video games and hadn’t heard of some of the board games. But I got into the mix and allowed [Airmen] to show me how to play the games.”
Airmen also recommended movies for Hughes to watch which started with a slew of superhero movies, which Hughes obliged and carved out time in her schedule to view.
“At that time, the only movie I had watched was ‘Black Panther,’” Hughes said. “But when I heard them talking about (Avengers) Infinity War, I asked the Airmen if I needed to watch all of these movies to understand. They said, not really and gave me a list, and guess what I did? I binged watched those [Marvel] movies. I didn’t watch all the movies when everyone else watched them, but a few weeks after I watched them all, I had a conversational piece to relate to with them.”
Airmen and leadership noticed her dedication to assist Airmen and the relationships she established during her early months began to grow – most notably during a quarterly awards ceremony. Hughes didn’t remember the exact title of the award, but she did recall the reactions of her Wingmen.
“When I heard my name, someone had to tap me because I was in shock,” Hughes said. “But that’s not why I felt like I succeeded [as a chaplain]. I felt like I succeeded because people were saying, ‘that’s my chaplain.’ Then someone said, ‘No, that’s our chaplain, that’s ‘The People’s Chaplain.’ And I think at that moment, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, people know that I care.’”
To display that affection, Airmen presented Hughes with a makeshift World Wrestling Entertainment title during her farewell that read, “The People’s Chaplain, Ch. Capt. Hughes Mar. 2018-Aug. 2020.”
Leigh, who worked with Hughes for nine months, also noticed the bond Airmen shared with Hughes.
“She is so well known and trusted that because she brought me in, I was equally accepted in the units,” Leigh said. “If Chaplain Hughes is bringing me around I must be OK. To be able to work with her – the time has been too short – but we’ve become closer and there is so much love shown and shared in our relationship.”
Hughes heaped praise on her chaplain team, not only for their work to lift spirits, but to keep her balanced. Hughes said she experienced personal losses while at Schriever and because of the energy exuded by her team, many people did not know about her turmoil.
She hopes everyone – from young Airmen to leadership – continues to pay it forward.
“Please take the initiative to ask: ‘How are you?’ ‘Would you like to have lunch with me today?’ ‘I’ve never seen you before; how long have you been stationed at Schriever?’” she said. “It seems to take a lot of energy, but those questions could potentially lead to lifelong friendships. So please take care of each other, please be uniquely you. Allow that uniqueness to add value to the United States Space Force. Thank you for allowing me to serve you for these years.”