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From Special Ops To Spiritual Ops
by U.S. Air National Guard Airman 1st Class Daniel Meade
March 26, 2021

From special operations to spiritual operations, 1st Lt. Steven Doyan, a resident of Batavia N.Y. and the newest chaplain of the New York Air National Guard’s 107th Attack Wing, has seen it all.

The New York Air National Guard 107th Attack Wing enlists 1st Lt. Stephen Doyan, a former Navy SEAL, now a Chaplain. He is one of three chaplains at the wing and will serve to focus on Airmen and unit resiliency. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Brandy Fowler)
The New York Air National Guard 107th Attack Wing enlists 1st Lt. Stephen Doyan, a former Navy SEAL, now a Chaplain. He is one of three chaplains at the wing and will serve to focus on Airmen and unit resiliency. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Brandy Fowler)

In January of 1992, Doyan joined the U.S. Navy. He served first as a Navy rescue swimmer and after three years, earned the right to wear the badge of a Navy Seal. In 2005 he left the Navy and became a New York State Trooper.

Doyan said he’s had amazing experiences and opportunities He said that the things he’s done and seen during his Navy career give him common ground with the Airmen of the 107th.

“It shows people that I'm real and that I've gone through some things,” He said.

Doyan said that his path to joining the 107th is a story about resilience, a story about coming back from what seems like the edge. His story started years prior to even joining the Navy.

Doyan said he was born in Seattle, Washington to a single mother.

He said that he grew up knowing he wanted to join the Navy and to be a SEAL, but he wasn't sure if he had the skills to do it. So right after high school, he enlisted as a Navy Aviation Rescue Swimmer in SH-60 helicopters instead. After three years with his squadron, he applied for the SEALS qualification course, known as Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) school.

His request was denied. Doyan recalled that he felt stuck behind a closed door.

That’s when Doyan turned to his faith.

“At that point I just did what I could, and I prayed to God to open that door up,” Doyan said “Within a week, my commanding officer allowed me to resubmit that package and it got approved.”

At this point in his life, Doyan said that he cared very little about his spiritual health. But, because of his acceptance into BUD/S, he felt he owed it to God to start caring.

So during his training and preparation, Doyan dedicated Sundays to reading the Bible.

He took what he read in the Bible to heart, Doyan remembered.

“You get into all these laws, ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that’, and I really committed that to my life,” he said, “I started writing everything down, like what I could and couldn't eat on an index card. I didn’t really know any better,” he said.

Doyan was so convinced he had to follow all the rules, he said that he would eat only at a particular Mediterranean restaurant because it served the kind of food that the rules permitted.

“According to the Bible,” Doyan said, “That’s what I was supposed to eat.”

After eight years with the Navy SEALs, Doyan said he had developed a “rockstar” attitude. He said that even though he believed in God, and that God had helped get him into the SEALs, he didn't think he needed God anymore.

“I was drinking like a sailor, cussing like a sailor, doing everything that sailors do,” he said.

Doyan ended his enlistment as a special operations diving instructor at the Special Forces Underwater Operations School in Key West, Fla. in December of 2004.

With his wife and kids in tow, he transitioned from military life to becoming a member of the New York State Police. He enrolled in the Academy in 2005 to join the force.

But while his career moved forward, Doyan said that his personal life began to fall apart.

He and his family were having troubles. So they turned to the church for help.

The God that brought him through the SEALs, the God that he abandoned, was the only thing that could save his marriage, Doyan said.

Having bounced between the extremes of following every religious rule he could find, to living his life on his own terms, Doyan said he finally found his faith in the center of it all and his marriage and family recovered as a result of that.

After graduating from the State Police Academy, Doyan was assigned to Troop-B in Canton N.Y.

Meanwhile, he had decided to get even more serious about his faith, and worked to become a minister. He attended Liberty University Online, to receive a Masters of Divinity degree. After obtaining more than 100 graduate hours towards his degree, Doyan was ordained by the Assemblies of God Church, while still working full time for the state police.

While he was making his faith a larger part of his life, Doyan moved up in his State Police career, attending the State Police Special Operations Basic School.

He was reassigned to the State Police Special Operations Response Team – the New York State Police version of SWAT—in Western New York.

Doyan said that it was in this new job, that he that encountered more hardship and built up more personal resiliency.

Trooper Ross Riley, a member of his team, died from a fall he sustained while participating in training drills at Letchworth State Park.

“It was so quick and so sudden. I was right there with him,” Doyan said.

As a new minister, Doyan made himself available to the other Troopers to help them work through the loss.

One of those Troopers was the 107th Attack Wing’s Command Chief Master Sgt. Edward Stefik.

“Chief Stefik was really really close to Ross,” Doyan said, “And I was able to help him and a few other guys through the grieving process.”

Stefik and Doyan became friends and Stefik introduced him to the idea of becoming an Air National Guard chaplain.

Doyan, Stefik said, is a great addition to the 107th’s chaplain team.

“We have a chaplain team that’s dynamic.” Stefik said. “I picture them as ‘resiliency avengers.’ They all have their own super powers!”

Stefik said that combining Lt. Doyans unique experiences, with the already well structured chaplaincy of the 107th Attack Wing, means that they can reach a new group of people. He can also help Airmen develop resiliency and continue to develop the resiliency to get them through the hard times, Stefik said.

Doyan continues to serve the N.Y. State Police during the week, while also dedicating his time to his non-profit, Truth Ministries John 14:6.

This ministry helps the community of Batavia, by delivering toiletries to those who can't afford them.

Meanwhile, Doyan said he’s here to do whatever he can for the Airmen of the 107th.

“I can tell you that I’m all in,” he said, “I want to serve as much as I can, 100 percent.”

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