Hanscom’s ‘Rappin’ Chaplain’ teaches through music

  • Published
  • By Glen Kernusky
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

Chaplain (Capt.) Robert A. Henry has a very poetic and memorable way of delivering his prayers; he raps them.

“Inspiring people to excellence and spiritual resilience is my goal,” said Henry. “And if my musical talents help me motivate and encourage people, so much the better.”

The chaplain said his experience at Hanscom AFB has been “exciting” and “motivating.”

“I rap about things that I’m passionate about, so I wrote a song about Hanscom AFB. [The rap] talks about the different elements at Hanscom and our important mission here.” 

Currently, Henry is working on putting some of his creations into an untitled, mini album, also referred to as an EP or Extended Play.

It was during his previous assignment at Dover AFB, Delaware, with the 436th Air Lift Wing that he first came to be known as ‘the Rappin’ Chaplain.’

“I was there on a six-month tour,” said Henry. “I wrote a rap about the base that got around and became popular. I had gotten the idea of rapping my prayers and invocations in my previous assignment and thought ‘The Rappin’ Chaplain’ had a nice ring to it. I only used the title a few times, but it spread quickly and stuck.”

Henry has written several songs, but only started recording them within the last year.

“While at Dover, I got connected with a producer who helped me record and master my songs,” he said. “When I came to Hanscom, rather than do regular trips down to Delaware for my recording sessions, I learned how to do it myself. It was a whole new skill set.”

Being a budding recording artist wasn’t something the former athlete had in mind as a teen back in California.

“Rapping was a hobby for me growing up,” Henry said. “It was something I dabbled in but didn’t really focus on it. I was more interested in sports, football in particular.”

His original goal was to play college football, but after a successful year playing for the team at his community college, he found it wasn’t as fulfilling as he had hoped. Something was missing and he felt a calling to something greater in life.

“I grew up in a Protestant Christian faith,” said Henry. “It was natural for me to pray and seek answers in the Bible. In the end, I decided to fully embrace my faith and enter the ministry.”

He enrolled in Pacific Union College and studied theology. After graduating in 2015, he looked around to see what ministry options were available.

“I’ve always admired the military,” he said. “So, I decided to try being a military chaplain.”

In 2017, Henry joined the Air Force Reserve as a chaplain candidate while he was in seminary. He performed chaplain duties as an individual mobilization augmentee at Space Base Delta 3, Los Angeles AFB, California, and in 2022, supported the ROTC Field Training program at Maxwell AFB, Alabama. It was during this time that he was inspired to use raps in his chaplain duties.

“It was a really enriching experience to be there and to support the cadets,” said Henry. “I wrote a rap about it and the cadet training assistants loved it so much that they made a music video of it and played it at the awards ceremony!  The standing ovation it received was the moment I thought that this is something I could use to bring people together.”

At the time, in his civilian life, Henry was the lead pastor at two churches in Lake County, California, but decided to bring his talents to the Air Force full time. Hanscom AFB is his first active-duty assignment.

“I’m excited and looking forward to a long career in the military,” he said. “I see it as a platform to be a positive example and influence - And my raps will help me to do that. They aren’t just for show, they’re about helping people.”

The Rappin’ Chaplain has only published a few of his songs so far, the rap called “Hanscom AFB” being one of them. It can be found on YouTube at the following link: https://youtube.com/@RobertHenry-vo9sr?si=q1MHENecjJWed9vU

The U.S. Air Force Chaplain Corps provides pastoral care ministry and counseling to Airmen, Guardians and families at active, reserve and guard bases across the Department of the Air Force. The Chaplain Corps provides a variety of programs and services that establish trusted connections and feed the spiritual, ethical, moral and religious needs of the force. 

AFIMSC provides an enterprise view of Chaplain Corps programs and services, enabling the Air and Space Force to prioritize greatest needs and standardize support offerings.