Air Force chaplain shares story of service

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Adam R. Shanks
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

His office is adorned with pictures of family, scholarly degrees and books of worship. Service members of all branches can be seen sitting by his desk, confiding in him for personal issues they would never tell anyone else.

Sitting opposite of them, is a ministry professional, listening intently, prepared to provide all the counseling he possibly can.

As a chaplain, Capt. Matthew Gallo, assigned to the 6th Air Mobility Wing Chaplain Corps, is one of the Air Force’s subject matter experts in the realm of spiritual resiliency, helping Airmen and their families get through any burden they may carry.

“Spirituality is one of the four pillars of resiliency for the Air Force, with the others being mental, social and physical resiliency,” said Gallo. “However, the spiritual pillar is often overlooked since it’s not tangible.

“You can look at someone and say, ‘Hey, they’re physically fit, they’re mentally sound and have a good social status,’ but you can’t necessarily see their spiritual character.”

Gallo explained that spiritual resiliency is the clear glue that holds the other three pillars together, despite being unseen.

“It’s one of my biggest pieces of advice I can give – without some form of spiritual resiliency, the others will crumble.”

Growing up in Ramey, Pennsylvania, Gallo felt compelled to serve a higher power at the age of 11, but didn’t pursue it because of factors beyond his control.

“I was basically deaf until I was 10, phonics were out of the question, so my reading and writing skills suffered,” said Gallo. “I even failed the first grade, but after multiple surgeries in my ears, I was perfectly fine.

“But going through that and being raised in a broken home, I wasn’t ready to answer the calling I heard from God, it wasn’t in the cards at the time.”

Two weeks after graduating high school, Gallo enlisted into the Air Force as an air transportation specialist, serving nine years and deploying four times. He then separated from active duty in 2009 to pursue his calling to chaplaincy in the Air Force Reserves.

“Prior to commissioning as an Air Force chaplain, I found myself working as a contractor in Kuwait, and I later became a hospice chaplain, working in hospitals and providing counseling to patients in San Antonio,” explained Gallo.

Gallo attended Commissioned Officer Training to become a reservist chaplain, and received notice that his experience and expertise would make him a competitive contender in the path to serving Airmen in an active-duty status.

Soon after, Gallo learned he was accepted as an active-duty chaplain, but was surprised by the first location he would be stationed.

“I looked at my orders, and did a double-take because I couldn’t believe what it said,” laughed Gallo. “I was going to Aviano Air Base in Italy, and at that time it was extremely rare to see a new active-duty chaplain get their first station overseas.”

Despite the pressure of being a new chaplain overseas, Gallo served his tour with confidence and later found himself at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, continuing to counsel and assist Airmen any way he can.

“I believe counseling is where the rubber meets the road as a chaplain,” said Gallo. “It’s easy to get sucked into the administrative office work, but I’ve always pushed myself to get out, and speak to Airmen during their duty hours.

“I like to put myself in their shoes and actually do their jobs; it allows me to see exactly how they’re feeling, and better understand where any issues may come from.”

Since becoming a chaplain, one of Gallo’s biggest challenges was transitioning from working on a flightline, to operating in an office setting. Chaplain Clyde Dyson, wing chaplain assigned to the 6th AMW Chaplain Corps, helped Gallo make his transition.

“After observing chaplain Gallo’s natural tendency to be with the Airmen at their worksites, I decided to expand his scope of professionalism to the administrative areas in the Chaplain Corps,” said Dyson. “Now, he’s the approving authority for the chapel’s appropriated and chapel funds.”

Although his workload as a chaplain can seem infinite, Gallo still finds time to visit the Airmen he is assigned to in the 6th Mission Support Group. Throughout MacDill, he can be seen helping out his Airmen in any way he possibly can.