Overcoming obstacles: From escaping Soviet Union to U.S. Air Force chaplain

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Karla V. Lehman
  • 94th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Although Chaplain (Maj.) Olga Westfall, 94th Airlift Wing chaplain, provides spiritual services during unit training assemblies, it has not always been that way for her.

Westfall was born in Dnepropetrovsk, found in Eastern Ukraine in the late 60’s. During her time as part of the Soviet Union, the thought of God was prohibited. The Bible was a prohibited book in the country because it contradicted the teaching of the communist party. Those believed in God or religion would be persecuted, killed or thrown in jail.

It discouraged Westfall to see so many people in pain and suffering. At one point, she felt like life had no meaning or purpose.

“These challenges she faced growing up in a hard country helped develop her into a great counselor,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James Danford, 94th Airlift Wing chaplain. “She deeply cares for people.”

Her path to become a chaplain did not come quickly or easily.

Searching for change in her country, she began to find answers to the life she was living in and God came into her life. She was desperate and contemplating suicide. Westfall said that “God stopped me, turned things around, and knocked my heart so I opened it, and my amazing journey started.”

She moved to the United States to attend seminary as a student and graduated in 2002. The opportunity to become a military chaplain came about through a meeting with her endorser who needed military chaplains at the time, due to the fact that they were at war. Westfall said she “prayed and was excited to do it.”

“If you were to ask me 30 years ago if I was going to be a military chaplain for the United States military, I would laugh and say that it was impossible,” Westfall said.

Yet throughout the process of becoming a military chaplain, she “kept her faith in God and let Him pave the way” for her. In addition, this change brought many adjustments and sacrifices. She believed throughout all this that she needed to “do her best where God placed her to be.” She became a chaplain because she wanted to “serve God and do what He wanted me to do.”

Nonetheless, over time Ukraine has accomplished the goal of religious freedom throughout the country, which Westfall said she believes is a great step forward for her country.

The chaplain said she struggles with insecurity because of her accent and wonders if people understand her. However, she feels that she is doing God’s will and strives in her duty towards Him.

Overall, Westfall has overcome many struggles in her life to be where she is today. Through her hard work, dedication and faith in God, she has found a way to thrive in the military serving proudly for the United States. She enjoys helping people out in a positive way and putting smiles on people’s faces.