SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Life is not about the destination, but the journey that gets you there.
Born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, 1st Lt. Lauren Hughes, chaplain with the 50th Space Wing, made her first appearance in Colorado Springs, Colorado at 12 years old.
She moved to the Springs when her father was stationed at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado as a member of the U.S. Army.
Hughes was only in Colorado for two months before she and her father moved to Germany.
Upon her father’s separation from the Army, they settled in Houston, Texas.
Hughes went to college at Northwestern State University in Louisiana, where she received her degree in business administration with a concentration in finance.
After graduation, Hughes began to feel “the itch” for the military, and took her grandfather’s advice to speak to a recruiter about joining the Air Force.
“I just wanted to serve,” she said.
Plans changed and Hughes had to move back to Georgia.
“I don’t think it was God’s timing for me,” she said. “I had to mature a little bit, finance was on my mind, and it just didn’t pan out for me at that time.”
However, Hughes had the opportunity to serve her country when she joined the Army National Guard years later.
As a new follower of her faith, Hughes felt a calling to do finance ministry, and the Chaplain at Basic Combat Training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, only strengthened her passion for ministry.
“I was older going into basic training, so younger soldiers would ask me these existential questions,” she said. “He (the chaplain) began to plant those seeds and said maybe the Lord is calling to you.”
Upon completion of basic training, Hughes followed her faith and found confirmation in her decision to pursue the Chaplain Candidate Program.
Hughes journeyed back to Texas after completing the program in Georgia, where she attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.
She graduated in 2015, and immediately entered the Baylor University Medical Center Clinical Pastoral Education program, where she studied for two years.
Unfortunately, things took an abrupt turn for Hughes when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. The National Guard was activated, and Hughes received orders to travel to Lufkin.
Although tragic, the three weeks she spent there confirmed her longing to serve military members full time.
“It was something I always knew in the back of my mind but the passion was reignited,” Hughes added. I wanted to provide service to people full time.”
In November 2016, Hughes contacted an Air Force recruiter, and in December 2017 was selected for active duty.
Hughes moved back to Colorado Springs in March, and has not looked back.
Capt. Portmann Werner, chaplain with the 50th SW, noticed Hughes’ enthusiasm before they had even met in person for the first time in late February.
“She’s had a positive attitude from the word ‘go,’” he said. “Every tiny little thing I did she was very appreciative of and it left a very positive taste in my mouth.”
Hughes immediately felt a sense of family when she visited Schriever AFB for the first time, and felt compassion and love from everyone she came in contact with, from contractors to Airmen.
“The love Chaplain Werner has for Airmen, and love they have for him was awesome to see,” she said. “I’m sure this relationship has been an integral part of the development of the Airmen here, and that’s not always the case.”
Hughes’ new role does not come without its challenges.
“I don’t so much compare myself to others, but I live the comparison,” she said. “My biggest concern is learning the Air Force culture.”
Werner has no doubts about Hughes, and only worries team Schriever will think she is supposed to replace him.
“I’ve not been a quiet person here,” he said. “My big thing is I know Chaplain Hughes has been made to be Chaplain Hughes. She’s here on her own accord to be exactly who she was built to be and bring that new kind of awesome to Schriever.”
Hughes hopes to initiate new chaplain-hosted events and activities, like a “Chaplain’s Café,” where Airmen and spouses can come and participate in spoken word poetry, one of Hughes’ passions.
Werner is excited to see Hughes engage with a different cross-section of the base.
Hughes hopes through her love of sports, she can assist Airmen in connecting with their true identity.
“I’ve played sports my whole life and you learn teamwork and are put in crucial situations and have to use critical thinking skills,” she said. “You can discover your true strength.”
“She’s going to be a great fit for Schriever and a great fit for space,” Werner said. “She is probably going to be able to connect well with people I wasn’t. A new regime has arrived and I think it’s going to be awesome.”
Hughes hopes to guide Airmen and their families through life and take the journey alongside them during her time at Schriever.
“We’re all here for a reason in life. My hope is to help people know what that purpose is and who they are inside and outside of the uniform. I want to be a part of that journey,” she said.