Chaplain's servant leadership path leads to Air National Guard service

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. George Keck
  • 162nd Wing

MORRIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Arizona -- The date Aug. 7, 1998 will forever be a day that Maj. Nathan Mestler, Arizona National Guard’s 162nd Wing chaplain, will remember as the first formative event for his move into chaplaincy.  On that day, bombs exploded outside two different U.S. embassies in Africa, killing 224 people and injuring more than 4,500.

Mestler was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but at 8 years old, his family moved as missionaries to Nairobi, Kenya, just four miles from the site of one of the embassy attacks. During the aftermath of the attacks, Mestler volunteered at crisis counseling sessions for members of his community who were impacted by the tragic events.

“My best friend’s sister and I had a children’s ministry at the time,” said Mestler. “We would go down to those survivor meetings and minister to the kids,” he said. “I was 17 years old, I was doing ministry with the survivors of that trauma and the children of the parents who had been killed,” said Mestler.

Soon after answering the call to serve his community during this time of crisis, he returned to the U.S. He received his degree in theology from the International Baptist College and Seminary (IBCS) in Chandler, Arizona, and followed it up with a master’s in divinity from Calvary Baptist Seminary.

With full intentions to return to Nairobi, those plans were inadvertently put on hold. Instead, the chairman of the board for IBCS and the chaplain for the 161st Air Refueling Wing in Phoenix convinced Mestler to join the Arizona Air National Guard in 2011.    

“From the first day on base, I felt immediately welcomed and received awesome mentoring from Chaplain [retired Lt. Col.] Mike Martinez,” said Mestler.  “Over the years, this place has felt like home and its members like family. I count it as a privilege and joy to be part of it.”

In 2019, Mestler took on the full-time civilian role as the fifth president of the IBCS, expanding his commitment to serving the Arizona community by helping to develop the next generation of Christian leaders. At the Wing, Mestler continues to work as a drill-status Guardsman alongside a team of individuals who are ready to serve Airmen no matter what the need. 

“Our office is here to help. I don't want anyone to ever think that they are bothering us or to hesitate to reach out,” said Mestler.  “If you're thinking about talking to a chaplain, just do it! People always leave our office glad they came and when you do, you will always find a listening ear--that's a promise.”