“CPE propelled me into this journey and has helped me increase visibility and allow others who look and speak like me
to understand that the realm of possibility is endless.”

Colonel Leah Botona Boling


Recently recognized by Hawaiʻi State Legislature, Colonel Leah Botona Boling has had a distinguished career highlighted by her numerous accomplishments. Appointed the first person of color to be named Director of the Chaplaincy Corps of the US Air National Guard, Boling’s life and career have been exemplary. It is with great pleasure that we share her story and explore the deep-rooted ties she shares with Pacific Health Ministry (formally Interfaith Ministries of Hawai’i) as a former CPE student. In the profile below, Boling outlines her journey describing the integral role education has played in her success.


Why did you decide to enroll in CPE?
Born and raised in the Philippines, I went into seminary to pursue my Masters of Divinity in Pastoral Care and Counseling, which required an internship in clinical pastoral education. After completing a unit of CPE while assigned to a medical center in Manila, I loved the concept of the multi-faith and multi-gender makeup of CPE. After going back to the seminary and finishing my one unit of CPE, I discovered the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education’s (ACPE) book of all the hospitals in America, which made me realize the possibility of ministry in the Philippines was impossible because I was a woman. They did not ordain women in the Southern Baptist Church. Therefore, I submitted my application to different places, including PHM, who interviewed and accepted me into the residency program in 1991.

What was the structure of CPE classes like?
I did CPE my first two quarters at PHM as a resident and then became interested in exploring CPE supervision for the remaining year. Reflecting on my experience, CPE required a great deal of introspection and vulnerability. It pushed you to be open about life experiences, including ones that occurred during childhood. This task, of course, was challenging but not a dealbreaker.

The first day immediately began with us diving in and telling our peers about who we were, which would spark discussion and inquisition. It is about getting to know each other, and as it progressed, we would get case studies and be assigned to particular units where we would comprise patient reports. Furthermore, during IPR (interpersonal relationship) meetings, we would discuss situations and feelings preventing us from being the best caregivers we could be.

Current job and impact CPE has had on your career.
I recently accepted the Director position headquartered at the Readiness Center, Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. CPE gives me the tools to be reflective and recognize when I make mistakes. It also allows me to encourage team building. Growing up, I never heard of military chaplaincy. I had no concept of what an Asian woman who was also a military chaplain looked like. CPE propelled me into this journey and has helped me increase visibility and allow others who look and speak like me to understand that the realm of possibility is endless.

Celebrated by the Hawaiʻi State Legislature for her outstanding career achievements, pictured is the certificate in which Boling was awarded for her appointment as the Director of
the Air National Guard Chaplain Corps.

What impact has CPE had on your personal life?
If not for CPE, I would not be where I am. During CPE training, I saw people of different backgrounds, which I never experienced before. It affirmed that we could coexist in multi-faith and multicultural settings.

How has Covid influenced your work as a chaplain?
I had to be creative in how I did my ministry during COVID. I had to rely a lot on our Public Affairs folks to share my messages of hope and how our airmen can access resources ( e.g., Pono Pantry, EncourageGram, Meet A Need, etc.)

Moving forward, it helps to keep an open mind on how to be creative in doing ministry.  Visits to airmen and their families can be done either in-person or virtually, whichever they prefer.  Just making sure we’re able to offer both options.

Lessons from COVID: keeping hope alive for our airmen/families through messages or practical means of support; encouraging self-care; finding virtual resources for our airmen/families.

Anything fun you’d like people to know about you?
I have a green thumb. I planted all of our fruit trees in our yard (12 in all). Most of them are bearing fruits. I also rescue orchids from stores (Walmart, Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc.) that are heavily discounted and are about to be tossed because they’re dying. I buy them and bring them to life.