Women’s History Month Spotlight: Capt. Saleha Jabeen

  • Published
  • By Sean Schroeder
  • 17th Training Wing Public Affairs

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – In recognition of Women’s History Month, we ‘shine the spotlight’ on Capt. Saleha Jabeen, Air Force chaplain assigned to the 517th Training Group at Presidio of Monterey, California. 

In 2005, as a native of India and a Muslim, Jabeen came to this country as a student pursuing a business degree at North Park University in Chicago with a long-term goal of completing a Master of Business Administration degree.  

The tragic events of the 9/11 terrorist attacks were still fresh in the minds of many Americans. 

“I was experiencing bigotry and Islamophobia on a heightened level firsthand.  And I have never seen anything like that in my life,” said Jabeen.  “To experience the amount of hate and people’s inability to stand a Muslim…in public spaces - it was horrible.” 

She saw America as a hostile place, but this began to gradually shift when Jabeen met religious studies students at her university.  They transformed her outlook and her focus.  She changed her academic trajectory from an MBA to two master’s degrees:  Master of Divinity and Master of Arts (Theology), Interreligious Dialogue.    

She became involved in interfaith advocacy and pastoral care.  Through her work, she experienced firsthand the plight of human suffering. 

“We are all hurting in this, it’s not just one religion, one community…it’s a condition that all of us are hurting,” said Jabeen.  

After a decade of living in the United States, Jabeen saw this country as her home and felt compelled to serve in the military and seek out a commission as a chaplain.

In December 2019, Jabeen broke barriers by being the first Muslim woman commissioned as a chaplain in the Air Force, and the only one thus far in the Department of Defense.  She is currently the only female Muslim chaplain in the Air Force.  

“It’s amazing, to be honest - it reinforces what it means to be an American…that there’s a place for everybody,” said Jabeen. 

In 2021, Jabeen supported the unique interagency mission of Task Force Holloman, which welcomed and supported Afghan evacuees at Holloman Air Force Base, one of eight military installations that were part of Operation Allies Welcome.  

In her role, she provided spiritual support to Airmen and served as a trusted cultural advisor to representatives from the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. 

In 2022, Jabeen began fulfilling her role as the 517th TRG chaplain.  She provided support to student Airmen attending the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center at Presidio of Monterey, California, which generates joint linguists for the entirety of the Department of Defense.   

Jabeen works in tandem with other military chaplains at the installation providing emotional and spiritual support to a multi-service population of over 2,500 students and staff.   

Jabeen has worked mainly with tech school students for most of her career and finds it to be quite rewarding. 

“The kind of passion they bring in, the openness they have – to learn, to serve, to grow, to be resilient - that’s pretty amazing to watch on a consistent basis,” said Jabeen. 

In November 2023, Jabeen was featured in the PBS documentary, “Three Chaplains.” It follows the journey of three military chaplains who practice the Islamic faith, highlighting their challenges and their commitment to providing religious and emotional support to service members over the course of several years.   

She takes pride in having a “can-do” attitude, welcoming every opportunity to educate Airmen, Guardians and their families about her religion and is passionate about inspiring, supporting, and serving members of the Air and Space Force community, regardless of their religious faith or lack thereof.

Jabeen is proud to serve in the Air Force and hopes her example can inspire other women to take chances and blaze a trail for others to follow.