Diocesan Military Priest Retires
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
August 12, 2021

Air Force Major and chaplain Father Kaim retires with official ceremony

ROCKFORD—Father Phillip Kaim says he “really saw it as God’s providence” when he entered the Air Force chaplain candidacy just over 20 years ago.
It had not been something he normally would have considered. On his first day of basic training, he says he admitted to someone, “Everything I know about the Air Force I learned from watching ‘I Dream of Jeannie.’” 
Of his feelings on the second day when he was told to take charge leading a group, he says, “All I could think of was Gomer Pyle. It was ugly.”
That rough beginning evolved into success. Father Kaim rose through the ranks to become an Air Force Major in 2016, and he had great stories to share from his 20 years of service at his July 29 retirement ceremony at Holy Family Parish in Rockford where he is pastor. 
His military experience began when he was in seminary with what he thought was his required presence in a North American College (Rome) auditorium to hear a pitch for military chaplains. 
“The thing that really struck me,” he recalled, was how few military priests served worldwide (100), and that “we had more than that in the (Rockford) Diocese.” 
The low number troubled the young seminarian enough for him to sign up for a summer program with the military, and he kept signing up for more summers after he saw the great need in person. 
“God just (was) lining everything up,” he said, including the presence of a recruiting monsignor who was a classmate of Bishop Thomas G. Doran, a bishop reluctant to release his priests to the military.
“I thought, if I’m not called to the military, who is?” Father Kaim finally concluded. “I felt commissioned by God. That’s how I got in.”
Two decades later, after serving at air force bases in Italy, England and New Mexico, as well as with Special Operations groups, Chaplain Major Kaim’s formal retirement was delayed for a year due to COVID-19. 
Nonetheless, the 2021 ceremony was filled with a mix of laughter and solemn moments as he was honored for his accomplishments, awards and decorations. 
Father Kaim’s funny stories included a particular Ultimate Football game, his mom’s reactions to his “coveted” overseas assignments, and 30 pizzas he ordered for the troops in Kuwait.
More somber stories hinted at difficult times: St. Michael’s help for an injured soldier, the stressed “deployed in place” troops at a New Mexico base, and five soldiers he coaxed to get help when they were planning to commit suicide.
Honored guests at the retirement event included three retired officers of the USAF: presider Colonel Virginia Stubblefield, narrator Colonel Walter “Ike” Isenhour, and Chief Master Sgt. William “Calvin” Markham who was the first Airman on the ground in Afghanistan after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Just before a flag folding ceremony and before the Air Force anthem was played, Anthony Kaim pinned a retirement medal to his son’s uniform.
A short time later, Chaplain Major Kaim was formally introduced to all those gathered in the church by Col. Isenhour as “United States Air Force Major Phillip Kaim — Retired.
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