From Air to Prayer -- Former Black Hawk Pilot Pastors Baptist Church

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A group of U.S. Army Rangers, assigned to the 5th Ranger Training Battalion, takes off in a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter to conduct an Airborne jump at Stringer Drop Zone, Dahlonega, GA., October 11, 2019. (U.S. Army Reserve/Staff Sgt. Austin Berner)
A group of U.S. Army Rangers, assigned to the 5th Ranger Training Battalion, takes off in a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter to conduct an Airborne jump at Stringer Drop Zone, Dahlonega, Georgia, October 11, 2019. (Austin Berner/U.S. Army Reserve)

Ken Shaver learned to fly before learning to preach.

Shaver is a former Black Hawk helicopter pilot who has been pastoring Greater Vision Baptist Church, 4733 Sutherland Road, for about three months.

Shaver, an Ohio native, joined the Army in 1978 straight out of high school and initially started out as a clerk.

It was a friend who persuaded him to take the test together that would allow them into the flight program.

"...I said, 'I've never even been in a helicopter. Are you kidding?'" said Shaver about when his friend suggested the idea.

But irony would have its way.

Shaver said he passed the exam while his buddy came up short.

From there, Shaver was sent to flight school at Fort Rucker in Alabama and from there was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

And at that time, the Army's Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter, nicknamed the "Huey" and best known for its use in the Vietnam War, was the standard utility fighting aircraft.

Shaver learned to fly the single-engine Huey before becoming among the first to pilot the twin-engine Black Hawk, which dramatically changed and improved helicopter flight combat.

"When we went from the Huey to the Black Hawk, it was like OK, this is doing things I've only heard about; it was just unbelievable," Shaver said. "But I was glad I learned to fly in a Huey. I had to learn how to read a map, which was so helpful. We didn't have GPS back then. And the other was, you really had to fly the aircraft. It doesn't have the power or anything the Black Hawk has."

During his 14 years in the Army -- seven active duty and seven in the Army National Guard -- Shaver logged just under 2,500 hours in the air.

While serving in the National Guard, Shaver was hired by the Federal Aviation Administration and worked his way up to the international air traffic manager. He was in charge of training foreign governments such as Morocco, The Bahamas and Egypt.

"We would go to help establish or improve a country's aviation program," Shaver said.

Called to Preach

Shaver and his family were living in Oklahoma when he was "called to preach" at age 41.

Shaver said he was still working at the FAA but made the decision to leave a lucrative job for the ministry.

"(God) started dealing with my heart," said Shaver, who's now 59. "And I was a very happy man; I've lived a happy life; I had a great career and I was making big-time money; my future was set."

But in 2001, Shaver returned with his family back to Fort Campbell to start a church.

"One of my greatest joys is that my wife and my kids never complained," he said.

It was in the fall of 2001 that he converted a dance studio into what became Greater Cumberland Baptist Church.

"I quit my job; I took a $100,000 a year pay cut and moved to Hopkinsville, Kentucky," he said. "...Our first Sunday was the week of 9/11."

Shaver said the church became a home to many soldiers and their families.

"The big thing for us was our focus on the military," Shaver said. "At one time, we had 32 soldiers from our church in Afghanistan."

Shaver spent 18 years leading Greater Cumberland Baptist Church before accepting the "opportunity" to become the pastor at Greater Vision Baptist Church.

Despite having a smaller military presence in Daviess County, Shaver's heart is still for serving fellow veterans.

Shaver said he's trying to establish a veterans family care program that would help the families of the soldiers currently deployed from the Maj. Gen. (Ret) Dean Allen Youngman Owensboro National Guard Readiness Center.

He said his former church provided a mom's day out, made house repairs and helped with any other needs during the deployments.

"When the soldiers deploy, your mind starts messing with you," Shaver said. "And there's a whole lot of challenges at home, not just physical challenges. We provided a safe place for the families."

This article is written by Don Wilkins from Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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