Chaplain's assistant combines love of music with helping others

  • Published
  • By Capt. Rebecca Cruz
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

A chaplain's assistant with the 161st Air Refueling Wing, connects with others through singing and encouraging words.

In her civilian life, Staff Sgt. Lisa Cimino is a professional vocalist, a renowned speaker, and a chaplain for Banner Behavioral Health. She has positively impacted the wing by singing the Star Spangled Banner at countless ceremonies and spearheading a resilience program called "Lunch and Learn".

She is often invited to community events to sing and speak. She has performed and spoken for women's organizations, evangelistic outreaches, workshops and conferences.

Lunch and Learn is a wing resiliency training series tailored from the Air Force's Comprehensive Airman Fitness program. It translates its key features into more digestible components, which keep members interested and attentive. It also equips, trains and develops resilient Airmen personally and professionally. The program fosters community, shared understanding and growth within the wing.

"I love utilizing my gifts, talents, and training simultaneously as I serve and support my unit and my community," Cimino said.

The chaplain's assistant was inspired and encouraged to join the United States Air Force by her god-sister Velva Jackson in 1984; however, Cimino took a twenty-year break in service to grieve and go through therapy from the military when her spouse was lost in a tragic motorcycle accident.

"The loss of my husband made me more equipped to help other people because I have learned how to be resilient and not only be sympathetic, but empathetic," she said. "I now have the tools to truly support people going through loss. I know what to say and what not to say."

Cimino joined the 555th Air National Guard Band in 2010 - utilizing her singing talent; however, she desired to be a chaplain's assistant.

In 2012, knowing that the Air Force was restructuring its band program, the talented singer started looking for a new for a new home in the military.

During a random encounter her dream of becoming a chaplain's assistant came true when she met Chaplain (Maj.) Thad Todd. As they discussed Cimino's love of the military and her love of God, he knew he had to invite her to join the Arizona Air National Guard as a chaplain's assistant.

"I met her while at physical therapy and we just started talking. One thing led to another and now she is here positively impacting our wing and Airmen," said Todd, Cimino's supervisor. "Her flexibility and professionalism make her an awesome asset - and her talent just blows people away."

Whether she is empowering others or helping people with their faith and spirituality needs, Cimino said she knows she is exactly where she is supposed to be. As a chaplain assistant, she comes in contact with people who are distressed, grieving, spiritually confused, and many other feelings. Cimino said singing and lifting people's spirit is the reason she wakes up every morning - excited to get to work and make a difference.

"I am passionate about what I do," Cimino said. "I strive to bring joy and meet the Airmen's needs. I want to support my copperhead family in any capacity that I can."