Chaplain Dondi Costin has leaped from colonel to major general to become Air Force chief of chaplains at the Pentagon.
"It's simultaneously thrilling and terrifying because of the responsibility of leading an organization as large, diverse and important as the Air Force Chaplain Corps," Costin said in a Sept. 3 email to Air Force Times. "Mostly, though, it's humbling to consider the opportunity to partner with our extraordinary religious support teams who give so much to care for Airmen and their families across the globe."
Costin replaced Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Howard Stendahl as chief of chaplains on Aug. 28. The U.S. Code allows the Air Force to promote a colonel to the two-star position if the one-star deputy chief of chaplains is retiring. The deputy, Brig. Gen. Bobby Page, is retiring effective Jan. 1, according to his Air Force biography.
As Pacific Air Forces command chaplain, Costin, a Southern Baptist, was noted for his rousing invocations, according to The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. At the 2014 Air Force Ball, his invocation drew a standing ovation.
Costin told Air Force Times that he spends a lot of time understanding each ceremony's purpose and those being honored.
"Invocations aren't just ceremonial placeholders lingering from a bygone era," he said. "Rather, they are opportunities for us to 'invoke' God's blessing on the business at hand."
The Chaplain Corps is intended to serve all airmen, "not just those who attend chapel worship services on the weekends," Costin said. "Whenever and wherever we provide worship, liturgies and rites, those will be done with passion and excellence," he said. "But we also want to be present for those whose comprehensive fitness program does not include formal involvement in an on-base faith community."
Costin's second priority is ensuring the Chaplain Corps best advises leaders on how spiritual, religious, ethical, moral and resiliency issues affect their units. "The better we know a unit's airmen and their concerns, the better advice we can provide to their leadership," he said.
Of course, airmen enjoy the First Amendment protections, which include the freedom to have no religion at all, he said. "Every chaplain and chaplain assistant can tell you story after story of helping those with religious beliefs and those without," Costin said. "My message to all airmen is that the Chaplain Corps exists to support their fitness and resiliency any way we can."