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131st Bomb Wing Chaplain receives Samuel Stone Award

WHITEMAN AFB, Mo -- Chaplain Lt. Col. Michael T. Butler, 131st Bomb Wing, was recently awarded the 2012 Samuel Stone Award, recognizing him as the Chaplain of the Year for the Air National Guard.

"The Missouri National Guard is proud of Lt. Col. Butler and his service as chaplain with the 131st Bomb Wing," said Maj. Gen. Steve Danner, adjutant general of Missouri. "Chaplains have a key role in our warrior support and resiliency programs, which ensure our Soldiers and Airmen are able to complete their missions. To have Lt. Col. Butler recognized on the national level is a testament not only to his hard work, but to the dedication and professionalism of all of our chaplains."

The Samuel Stone Award is named for the late Chaplain Samuel Stone, the first recorded chaplain to serve in the militia of colonial America. The annual winner is chosen based on training accomplishments or contributions to mission support, exhibition of and enrollment in off-duty programs dedicated to professional self-improvement.

"This award is an impressive accomplishment that is so richly deserved," said Col. Michael J. Francis, 131st Bomb Wing commander. "Chaplain Butler's consistent passion and dedication to not only the mission, but the men and women he serves with, truly epitomizes the ideal Citizen-Airman."

Currently, Butler is deployed to the Transit Center at Manas AFB, Kyrgyzstan, serving as the wing chaplain. He volunteered for the 6-month deployment, which is a follow-on to his 13-month volunteer deployment to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, as the wing chaplain and Catholic priest.

"I believe in the end, this award recognizes the 131st Bomb Wing's outstanding leadership and chapel team, not just myself as an individual," said Butler.

Ordained into the priesthood in 1989, Butler received his commission as a Catholic chaplain with the 131st Bomb Wing in 1991. In 2008, he joined the active-duty Air Force as the deputy wing chaplain, and later wing chaplain, at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. In 2010, he rejoined the 131st Bomb Wing where he serves on extended active duty.
"I love being a priest and I certainly am honored and privileged to be member of the Missouri Air National Guard," said Butler. "That is truly the best award I have received."

After his deployment, Chaplain Butler plans to return to the Archdiocese of St. Louis, where he is a priest, and to continue as a chaplain for the 131st at Whiteman.