The Air Force Reserve Command is expected to decide Friday whether a Reserve feature story about a senior master sergeant who proselytizes in Guatemala with his family should have been posted on the command's official webpage. And now whether the story should be pulled.
The article, "Reservist finds true meaning in Guatemala," is running with an editor's note on the AFRC page stating the command received complaints that the piece endorses religion and that officials are reviewing it.
The article tells the story of Senior Master Sgt. Larry Gallo of the 433rd Airlift Wing, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, who spends each Christmas in Guatemala or Mexico with his family helping to provide "medical and spiritual aid to impoverished individuals."
Gallo makes the trip as part of T.I.M.E. for Christ Medical Ministries, a charity whose stated "real purpose is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Mexico." Formerly known as T.I.M.E. for Christ Mexico Ministries, it is based in San Antonio.
Gallo is also vice chairman of the non-profit organization, according to the article.
Air Force officials at AFRC or the 433rd Airlift Wing did not respond to Military.com's request for comment.
The command began reviewing the article on Jan. 27 after the watchdog group Military Religious Freedom Foundation demanded it be taken down. MRFF founder and president Mikey Weinstein, in an email to 433rd AW Vice Commander Col. Aaron Vangelisiti, called the article a "shameless and incredibly prominent and public promotion" of religion on official Air Force websites.
The MRFF represents 51 airmen at San Antonio-Lackland, 44 of which are Roman Catholic or Protestant, he said. The group does not identify clients because they fear reprisal, he said.
Weinstein told Vangelisiti that Air Force regulations demand that commanders at every level "must ensure that their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief."
Over the course of emails back and forth, Vangelisiti assured Weinstein that his concerns were pushed up the chain to Command headquarters, where it was being handled by the Judge Advocate General's office.
Weinstein said Vangelisiti said a formal response was being readied on Thursday and would be released Friday after being approved by the wing commander, Col. William W. Whittenberger Jr.
Weinstein said Air Force commanders at all level are required by Air Force regulation to "ensure that their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief, or absence of belief."
Weinstein said everyone involved ought to know better than to post such an article on an official military website.
"This is a recruiting command – they're supposed to be bringing people into our Air Force," he said. Highlighting Gallo's work with an evangelical Christian organization sends the wrong kind of message. It "emboldens our Islamic enemies because we look like Crusaders and it enrages our Islamic allies."
Weinstein called the episode "a textbook example of a violation of Air Force regulations," he said. "Whoever allowed this should be punished."
"You know if this guy was Muslim, and doing this for a group pushing Islam the same way T.I.M.E. for Christ is pushing Christianity, there would be blood in the streets," he said.
-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at email@example.com