Balancing Faith and Academia: Lt. Col. Duane McCrory’s Story

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  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE, Okla. - - In 1991, a young Airman by the name of Duane McCrory embarked on his Air Force career, starting at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center located at Presidio of Monterey, Calif.

His ambitious goal was to master the Arabic language.

Fast forward to today, that very same Airman, now Lt. Col. Duane McCrory, the wing chaplain at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., continues to leverage his language skills, all while enduring an academic pursuit of his Ph.D.

In the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, McCrory attended the European Association of Biblical Studies annual conference in Syracuse, Sicily. It was here that he presented his dissertation regarding Arabic manuscripts of the book of Romans in the New Testament.

“Essentially, what I am trying to accomplish is to get a fuller view of the entire manuscript tradition in Arabic so I can determine what language it was originally translated from,” said McCrory.

As described by McCrory, the field he is venturing into is incredibly niche, considering the goals he aims to achieve.

To digitize ancient manuscripts, McCrory faced a multitude of challenges, the foremost being the acquisition of the original manuscript.

“It took a little bit to get pictures for the manuscript. UCLA is digitizing them, but they had not photographed them yet,” said McCrory. “And so, I had to reach out to the curator. I guess you might say he’s a monk out there in Sinai, Egypt.”

Regardless, his profound understanding of the Arabic language has proven to be a pivotal advantage, propelling him forward in his Ph.D.

“It’s why I chose this particular work for my dissertation. It plays a big role in this.”

“I think getting this Ph.D. gives me a deeper understanding of what I do here at Vance,” said McCrory. “I mean, from time to time I’ll preach at the chapel on Sundays, and you know, people often have religious questions. I feel how it intersects with my life here as a chaplain at Vance.” 

Lt. Col. Roland Olmstead, the previous chief of operations group training at Vance Air Force Base and now an assistant professor of political science at the United States Air Force Academy, Colo., has his Ph.D. in political science.

He feels the benefits of having a Ph.D. has a significant impact on the Air Force as a whole.

“The benefits to the Air Force correspond to these two aspects of getting a Ph.D.,” said Olmstead. “First, the person with the Ph.D. can bring their specific expertise to solving Air and Space Force problems. Second, because they have been trained to think deeply and analytically. They can also analyze additional problems that are outside their immediate expertise.”

Ultimately, having a Ph.D. can create credibility for Air and Space Force leaders when dealing with outside agencies.

Regardless, McCrory serves as an example of managing a work-life balance with his dedicated service in the Air Force.

As of today, McCrory aims to complete his Ph.D., on behalf of the University of Birmingham, England, by the summer of 2024.