Pastor Blends Civilian, Military Life

January 06, 2017 | Heidi Baumgartner

Gary Snyder, wing chaplain for McChord Field in Washington, sent Ryan Neill, chaplain, to read a specific letter at a marriage retreat for military couples that pastor and chaplain Scott Tyman was presenting. The letter: a surprise promotion for Tyman.

“I had no idea I was being promoted Oct. 1,” says Tyman, who was promoted from a major to lieutenant colonel. “I was floored by the promotion.”

Sixteen years ago, while pastoring in Panama City, Fla., where a large number of his members were in the Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard, Tyman accepted the local base's invitation to a Clergy Day for civilian pastors.

“I went and heard what a chaplain does in the military,” Tyman explains. “An Air Force chaplain asked me to join. I was 36 at the time and on the edge of being too old.”

With a few reservations from his wife, Tyman went to Commissioned Officer School (boot camp for lawyers, doctors, dentists and chaplains who have a minimum of a higher education degree) for four weeks. He was commissioned as an officer in 2000.

“It’s a mission field,” Tyman says. “I’m called to be a missionary to our men and women in the military. The main thing about a chaplain is to provide religious accommodations.”

As a reservist Air Force chaplain, Tyman has regular squadrons he visits. He holds Bible studies, religious classes, chapel services and funerals. In his military chaplaincy career, Tyman has witnessed 70 to 80 people become a part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Tyman sees his chaplain work as his second congregation in addition to his home church of Washington's Tacoma Central Adventist Church. “I like both the civilian life and the military life,” he says. “I can fit in both worlds.” 

Tyman resonates with the Apostle Paul: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all that I might win the more… . Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partakers of it with you” (1 Cor. 9:19, 23).

In the chaplaincy team at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, he serves along with two other Adventist chaplains in addition to chaplains of other faiths. Previously when seven Adventist chaplains were on the team, the chaplains discussed starting an Adventist chapel service. They ultimately decided instead to connect interested military families with nearby Adventist churches.

At Tyman’s promotion ceremony on Oct. 16, during which he received his silver oak leaf cluster, Tyman shared with 80 guests how he resonates particularly with the Air Force core value about “service before self.” 

“Why am I a chaplain? Because I believe in the principle of service before self,” Tyman says. “Everything we do should be thinking of others, not ourselves. Jesus’ entire life was thinking others and so should ours.”

Tyman says there are three best decisions in his life: “The best decision I made was when I became Seventh-day Adventist Christian. The second decision was when I married my wife, Evelyn, 28 years ago and we had our three children: Isaac, Anna and Joshua. Third decision: to become a military chaplain.”