Duke Field welcomes new female military chaplain

  • Published
  • By Michelle Gigante
  • 919th Special Operations Wing

The Duke Field chaplain team has a new female chaplain to introduce to the 919th Special Operations Wing.

1st Lt. Amber Kunkel, a native of Atlanta, Georgia, will be available during drill weekends to serve the 919th SOW spiritual needs and offer confidential counseling.

“We are very lucky to have Chaplain Kunkel as part of this team,” said Maj. Nathan Adkison, 919th SOW chaplain. “Not only does she have over 12 years of experience in ministry, but she also brings a spiritual depth, relational, and integrative thinking skills. She can provide insight into the issues our female members are facing, which can be missing in many military chapels.”

Kunkel found her path to the Reserve, while she was leading a women’s clergy conference in South Carolina. At the conference, she was approached by a gentleman in Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform.

“I was going to thank the military gentleman for his service,” said Kunkel. “He ended up recruiting me into the Air Force Reserve. I had no idea he was there recruiting female clergy.”

Kunkel’s husband, dad, mentor, and friends all thought she would fit right in with the military. Kunkel commissioned in December 2020.

“I didn’t quite understand how I fit in [the military] at the time,” said Kunkel. “It was my next big adventure and an honor to serve.”

It wasn’t until Kunkel was in Officer Training School, that it sunk in for her that she was now also one of the members wearing the OCPs she looked up too.

“At OTS, when it turns five o’clock, we learned you stand, face the flag and salute,” said Kunkel. “I remember thinking, I can’t believe I’m actually getting to do this, because I have heard all my life of people who serve their country and I thought, wow, I get to go serve those who served.”

Prior to Kunkel’s military service, she worked in broadcast television. The church she attended brought her on board to work in the production staff.

“The production side of stuff was really ramping up at my church,” said Kunkel. “It was a huge shift for me, dropping a paycheck, and a career in broadcast journalism, where I could have been out there in the spotlight. I didn’t want the spotlight to be on me, I wanted the spotlight to be on others.”

For the next decade, she spent her time learning the ropes of ministry and was soon ordained. Now she is a professional coaching consultant for both men and women.

“I do a lot of coaching with women who are looking to navigate their way in the world and how to lead themselves so they can start growing their capacity to lead others,” said Kunkel. “I also coach men who are looking to build up women as leaders.”

When Kunkel is not working, she loves to gather with friends and family.

 “I am known to throw some really, great holiday parties in my neighborhood,” said Kunkel. “I am the one on the block, who will have a DJ, bring everyone out on the block together to just have fun.”

Last year, Kunkel threw a Halloween party in her neighborhood and this year she looks forward to hosting a Christmas party in her neighborhood.

“Life can be serious, and throwing a party is my way to meet my neighbors, laugh, and meet amazing people, said Kunkel. “I am looking forward to getting to know members here and be a listening ear. We all know at the 919th, we are the shining light in the darkness, and I hope that is what I get to do here is maybe shine some light, if someone is having a bad day, dark time, or whatever because we all have those.”

For more information about the chaplain services and how to reach them, please consult the 919th SOW mobile app under the ‘IRON’ icon, then click on ‘Chaplain’ or contact the chaplain’s office directly at 850-883-6984. Walk-ins are also welcome.