Air Force's Deputy Chief of Chaplains Fired

U.S. Air Force Col. James D. Brantingham.
U.S. Air Force Col. James D. Brantingham, then U.S. Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa command chaplain, speaks at the Berlin Airlift 70th anniversary commemoration at Frankfurt International Airport, Germany, June 26, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

The second in command of the Air Force's chaplains has been removed from his role, the service announced last week.

Brig. Gen. Daniel Brantingham was removed from his position as the deputy chief of chaplains on Jan. 31, and a "pattern of leadership shortfalls contributed to the decision,” Department of the Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told on Thursday. The service's chaplain staff members are taking on his duties until a replacement is assigned.

The services often don't disclose specific reasons for why a commander or military leader is fired, typically citing the federal Privacy Act, which protects military records, and relying on the opaque phrase "loss of trust and confidence" instead of detailing the reasons behind a shake-up.

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"Our military leaders are held to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct and are accountable for their actions when falling short of those expectations," Maj. Gen. Randall Kitchens, the Air Force chief of chaplains, said in an emailed statement.

Stefanek did tell on Thursday that Brantingham was not being investigated for any misconduct and said he was still serving in the Air Force.

Brantingham did not respond to a phone call and text message at a number listed for him in public records.

In his role as deputy chief of chaplains, Brantingham oversaw approximately 2,100 chaplains from the active duty and Air Force Reserve. He was also a member of the Armed Forces Chaplain Board, where he advised "the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff on religious, ethical and quality-of-life concerns," according to his official Air Force biography.

The former deputy chaplain's career started in 1990 as a candidate at the 410th Bombardment Wing at the now-decommissioned K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in Michigan.

During his more than 30-year career, Brantingham has served in high-profile roles such as the senior Protestant chaplain at Vandenberg Air Force Base's 30th Space Wing in California, the cadet wing chaplain at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, and command chaplain at Air Mobility Command.

Brantingham was promoted to brigadier general in October 2021 and became the service's deputy chief of chaplains the following month.

Chaplains play a major role in all the service branches by leading worship services, offering personal guidance, providing emotional support, and promoting morale and social well-being among the ranks.

They also go with troops on deployments and have even played roles in building relationships with local religious leaders in war zones, according to the federal government's U.S. Institute of Peace.

Military chaplains have been faced with a tough environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, and were tasked with evaluating troops' vaccine religious exemption requests on a case-by-case basis to see whether a service member was being truthful in their objections to the inoculation.

Religious exemptions among the ranks to the COVID-19 in the Air Force and Space Force faced a major legal case this past year.

Most recently, in late November 2022, an appeals court in Ohio upheld an injunction that protected around 10,000 unvaccinated active-duty, reserve and National Guard service members in the Air Force and Space Force from being punished as they awaited religious exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccine mandate was eliminated in the annual defense policy bill passed by Congress in late 2022.

-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.

Related: New Court Ruling Slams Air Force's Limited Approval of Religious Exemptions for COVID-19 Vaccine

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