Author Archives: dgharvey

My Epic Tale

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So, here is my epic tale of adventure from the most recent Marine Corps Birthday Ball.

I had been invited to attend the ball hosted by the Marine Corps League in Chula Vista, CA. Not wanting to show up in my Army uniform to such an event (and have to shave my sweet beard in the bargain), I put together my suit with all my mini medals attached to the lapel. My sweet wife being unable to attend, I went stag, but had a good time nonetheless. Once the dinner and ceremonies were over – and not having a dance partner – I decided to leave somewhat early; around 2130 if memory serves.

Since the night was still young and I was dressed pretty sharp, I decided to head down to the Gaslamp Quarter of Sandy Eggo to have a pint of Guinness (for strength!) and a cigar at the Cuban Cigar Factory. This I did, and even managed to find free curbside parking nobbut two blocks from my destination – no easy task for those of you familiar with downtown SD on a Saturday night. Enjoyed my cigar in the company of a young Petty Officer 1st Class, who was there with his two cousins and his fiancé. Going to school to be an LCAC navigator, and would soon be assigned to ACU-5 up at Camp Pendleton. We had a good chat, and as we parted ways I decided to go across the street to an Irish pub called The Field, for my Guinness tank had not yet been fully topped off. This is where things got interesting.

The place was packed, with a line out the door, yet I found myself being graciously waived inside without so much as a glance at my ID. Must be the medals, thought I, or else my prematurely grey beard. Whatever. I make my way up to the bar and find myself standing behind a large red-headed man in a white t-shirt that read “Devil Dog Security.” As I’m pondering whether or not he might be a former Marine, he turns around and looks me up and down as his eyes get wide. I give him a brief smile and nod my head before he turns back around and starts whispering to his buddy. His friend looks over at me and motions me up to the bar. He introduces himself as Alex and his bearded ginger friend as Kelly. Kelly leans over, places one hand on the back of my neck and pulls me in close as he stage whispers in my ear that “You scared the shit out of me!”

“Me?” I ask, “How did I do that?”

“You just looked mean!” he says.

At this point two things dawn on me: 1) I guess I look intimidating when I don’t smile, and 2) Kelly is *very* intoxicated. Alex explains a few things to me. First, Kelly is an old neighborhood buddy of his that he hasn’t seen in about 25 years. Second, he is a regular at this particular establishment, knows all the bartenders, and would like to buy me a drink. “What’ll you have?” he asks. Naturally, my reply is “Guinness – for strength!” So he orders a few beers and we chat for a few minutes, while Kelly sways in the background. A little while later nature calls, so I excuse myself and head to the men’s room. When I return, I’m puzzled to see that my beer is no longer on the bar. As I get closer, I see that Kelly is now enjoying it with gusto. Oh well, I think – it’s not like I paid for it.

So then Alex asks me if I’ve ever been to KC BBQ – the place where they filmed some of the scenes from “Top Gun.” I reply that I have not – indeed, have never even heard of the place – whereupon he suggests we head over there. Having nothing really better to do, I agree. We amble out of there and begin walking. Kelly is telling Alex how cool I am, and how I’m the greatest guy he’s ever met. We hail a cab, and all pile in the backseat for the ½ mile journey to KC BBQ. At this point, things go from interesting to downright strange.

As we’re driving, Kelly (in the middle) tells me what a great guy I am (again) and then says he wants to give me something. He then pulls out his wallet, takes out a bill and tries to stuff it in my pocket. When that fails, he shoves the bill in my hand. I look at it, and see Ben Franklin grinning up at me. Somewhat shocked I demur, telling him that I can’t possibly take his money. He, using the logic of a drunk man who has just met his new best friend, repeatedly rebuffs my attempt to return his money. Ok, I think, I’ll just hang onto it until we get to the bar, and then give it to Alex.

We arrive at KC a few minutes later and head inside. Alex orders us a pitcher, and Kelly heads to the bathroom. While he’s gone, I explain what happened in the cab and give him the $100 bill, saying I didn’t feel right about taking his money. Alex says well, let’s just use it to pay the bar tab. So he gives it to the bartender and has him open up a tab. Feeling a bit peckish at this point, I decide to order some ribs while Kelly begins a conversation with another large drunk man about the merits of baseball player Alex Rodriguez, AKA “A-Rod.” The ribs come out and I try one. Not bad, but a little tough. I invite Alex and Kelly to partake, and Alex decides he’ll have one. He tries to pull one out, and ends up flipping the whole rack onto the floor. *Splat* Oh well, I think – it’s not like I paid for it.

Kelly again begins telling anyone who will listen – esp. the well-built blond sitting next to me – what an awesome guy I am. He then tells me (again) that he wants to thank me. How will he do this you ask? Well, out comes the wallet and another $100 bill. I’m laughing at the absurdity of this, but he is dead serious. I look to Alex for help, and he just smiles and shrugs. So I take it and put it in my pocket. We get some sandwiches to replace the floor ribs, and hang out for awhile longer while Kelly beams like he’s never been happier in his life. Finally, around 2am we decide we’ve had enough and make to leave. My two pals are headed back to Alex’s apartment, and I’ve got a bit of a walk back to where I parked my car. As we shake hands goodbye, guess what Kelly has in his hand? Yup, another C-note. Of course he won’t listen to me pleas, and stuffs it down inside my suit pocket. Then with a wave of their hands, the two of them stagger their way down the road as I slowly make my separate way, pondering my good fortune and wondering if Kelly is going to wake up the next morning demanding to know what happened to the $300 he used to have in his wallet.

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What A Dog Can Tell Me About God

So, I’ve been getting pinged a little bit as of late for not contributing so much to this blog.  I have to admit that I’ve been somewhat hesitant to do so; I mean, Spill has all things aviation related, XBrad keeps us abreast of the military/political goings-on, etc.  Since my “specialty” is the chaplaincy & all things related to knowing and understanding God, I don’t ever want to come across as somehow forcing my beliefs on others, esp. those who have had bad experiences with various religions in the past.

However, it dawned on me today that that’s really a cheap cop-out.  I mean, everyone who comes here is a visitor, right?  If you’re an atheist, or agnostic, or otherwise don’t want to hear about God – then you can simply skip my posts and/or go somewhere else, right?  It’s not like I’m making you read what I write.

So with that out of the way, I came across this video the other day:

Blind Dog Living in a Trash Pile Gets Rescued

Now, this is a touching video for many reasons.  Most of us probably love dogs, and to see one such as this so obviously neglected and abandoned tugs at our heart-strings.  It may even bring a tear to your eye to witness the transformation of this pup from a lonely, scared, blind creature into a clean, tail-wagging dog full of life and joy.  And that’s ok – it should make you tear up a bit.

But what I see when I watch this is a deeper symbolism – one that parallels our own predicament.  I see this story as one that represents very well our human condition and what God has done for us.  That little dog represents me before I came to know God.  I was dirty, smelly, unable to help myself and blind to my own condition.  I was lost in my own sin.  But a compassionate Savior found me where I was – came to me in my squalid corner – and rescued me.  He opened my eyes to see the world with new vision.  He cleaned me and got rid of all the vermin that had infested me.  He showed tenderness, mercy and love.

Did I have a part to play in all this?  Yes, I suppose so.  I could’ve resisted Him. I could’ve run away, or bit His hand if He got too close.  I could’ve accepted the free help and then run off again. Or, I could’ve accepted the unconditional love for what it was and allowed myself to be fundamentally transformed.

As we enter the season of Thanksgiving and Christmas, pause for a moment to consider your own condition.  Has God given you reason for joy this year?  Has He changed your life in some way?  Has He shown you kindness and mercy that you didn’t deserve and couldn’t possibly have earned?  If so, take a moment to thank Him for coming to your aid.  Thank Him for not abandoning you in your filth and misery.

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Chaplain named as Adjutant General

Ok, so a few days ago I was informed about this news article appointing Chaplain Daniel Krumrei as the next Adjutant General for the state of Illinois:

http://www.stripes.com/news/army/chaplain-named-to-senior-illinois-national-guard-position-1.202298

My first thought was “Good for him,” but upon further reflection, I think it’s a bad idea, and an honor that CH Krumrei should’ve declined. AR 165-1, titled “Army Chaplain Corps Activities,” is the governing document for all Army/National Guard chaplains. Paragraph 3-1e states quite clearly that a chaplain has no command authority. This is echoed in AR 600-20 (para. 2-16c) and both documents refer back to Title 10 U.S.C. § 3581, which states that “A chaplain has rank without command.”

Chaplains, by the nature of their job, religious specialists and staff officers. As the above references make clear, we are prevented from holding command billets and cannot accede to command others even if/when we’re the only officer present. We advise the commander on many different matters, but we do not make command decisions.

In addition, most are not qualified for command billets, since their years of military experience don’t involve dealing directly with command/leadership issues. I might be an exception to this rule, since I spent many years as a Marine Corps officer, but I know that those days are behind me and that any command experience I’ve had hasn’t kept pace with my former peers.

So presumably, CH Krumrei will have to relinquish the title “Chaplain” and take off his crosses in order to accept this position. Which probably won’t be a problem, since general officers don’t wear branch insignia anyways. Even so, it would seem to be a strange position to be in – going from non-combatant status for the past 20 years to suddenly commanding the state’s militia.

Also, there is the question of professional competence. I don’t know what Krumrei did in the Guard from 1977-92, or whether he was enlisted or an officer at that time, but that would’ve been the last time he ever held a leadership position – over 20 years ago. I’m sure he’s well-suited for any type of administrative role – and others have argued that that is largely the function of an Adjutant General – but there have arisen times in the recent past where National Guard troops have been called up to deal with riots, disasters, and other emergencies where the use of force may become necessary.

I can’t speak to the approval process for him to accept such a position through the Chief of Chaplains office, or whether he’ll step down from his pastorship and revoke his ecclesiastical endorsement, but I know the storm I would face if I decided to branch transfer back into artillery! I’ll admit that there’s many elements to this story that I don’t know – and probably never will – but on the face of it it seems to be setting a bad precedent to appoint someone who has dedicated such a large portion of his military career to providing religious support to such an elevated command billet.

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The Padre’s take on the rhetoric behind an “assault weapons” ban

I don’t usually get drawn into most public debates, but this has been going around for awhile, so I thought I would weigh in on the “assault weapon” issue. Be prepared: it’s a bit long.

For what it’s worth, I can agree that there are few, if any, situations where one would *need* a military-style rifle that could not be adequately filled by another more suitable weapon. Whether it’s hunting or home defense, there are other weapons available which I think make more sense and are much more practical. Most folks have rightly pointed out that exceptions can and should be made for legitimate purposes, such as hunting and self-defense, so we’re not talking banning ALL firearms (at least, not yet). So let’s consider the argument for banning what everyone commonly refers to as “assault weapons.”

I can see why many people want to get rid of them. They’re black & scary, and look too much like the weapons of war that we’ve seen on the news for the past 10 years or so in Iraq & Afghanistan. They are lethal in the right hands (as is any firearm, for that matter). They are primarily designed to spit out rounds at the rapid rate (though they are not machine guns/automatic weapons) and this in turn increases their lethality. Why would any sane, reasonable person (military/law enforcement excepted) either want or require such a weapon?? If that is the concern and the argument being voiced here, I can both understand and, to a degree, agree with it.

But is banning them outright really the solution? If it is, let’s put all our cards on the table and examine such a ban in detail.

First, is this a selective or total ban? Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has already proposed submitting an assault weapons ban immediately upon Congress’ return after the holidays. A similar ban was enacted by President Clinton back in 1994, and expired 10 years later. But in each case, the ban is (or would be) limited to the new purchase, sale or transfer of such arms. Those already owned would be “grandfathered” in, meaning there would be no confiscation of firearms that were lawfully purchased before the ban went into place. This would have two effects: 1) It WOULD NOT remove all “assault weapons” from private hands, as there would still be numerous firearms that were bought before the ban. 2) It WOULD likely increase the overall number of such weapons, as people who were on the fence about owning one would rush to purchase one before they were outlawed. This has happened before and is starting to happen again. If you doubt this, go to any website or gun shop that sells these types of weapons or parts and check on their availability – most are backordered for the foreseeable future.

Ok, so a selective ban wouldn’t remove these weapons totally from the population, so what if we passed a TOTAL ban, outlawing even those guns which were purchased legally? What if we required everyone who owned such a weapon to immediately surrender them to their nearest law enforcement agency? Leaving aside the tricky legal issues with unlawful search & seizure and state’s rights, I agree that this would probably have the intended effect. But how would this be accomplished? Would police go door-to-door searching for these guns? Would they have a buyback program? If so, would they be prepared to pay the hundreds or thousands of dollars that these weapons cost the owner? Where would such funds come from?

So a total ban would likely achieve the desired endstate, but as with anything, we must consider the cost. Numerous people have cited the large number of deaths in the United States due to firearms. 30k or more per year is what I’ve heard, though I haven’t the time to research it fully. Sounds like a lot, right? .01 percent of the population. But I don’t think this number takes into account the circumstances in which the individuals were killed – whether it was “justifiable” or not – only that X number of people died by a certain means. I would be very curious to know how many of those 30k were killed with a military-style rifle. We know about the mass shootings that have occurred in recent times, but one almost never hears about these types of weapons being used in average shooting, whether criminal, home defense, gang related activities, etc. By far the most common weapon used is the handgun – a simple revolver or semiautomatic pistol.

So for argument’s sake, let’s say that 300 people are killed each year with a military-style semiautomatic rifle. One in a million. Isn’t that sufficient reason to confiscate them from everyone and ban them forever? After all, if there’s no good reason to own one, and 300 or more lives could potentially be saved each year by outlawing them, doesn’t that make sense? Well, I suppose the answer to that question lies in your point of view and your willingness to give up your rights. But then the people calling for such a ban aren’t giving up any of THEIR rights, because none of them (or very few) actually OWN such weapons, nor would they ever really even consider owning one. It’s a win-win for them; lives are saved, and they don’t have to give up a thing themselves.

But here’s where I and many others would disagree. It has to do with one’s rights, and the freedom & liberty we enjoy as American citizens. It has to do with setting a precedent. If we ban these weapons in order to save 300+ lives per year, what’s to stop the government from deciding to ban more and more things? Once all the assault rifles are collected, what will we do when another mass shooting occurs with another type of legal firearm? Ban those? What about every other thing that’s a) not strictly “necessary” and b) would save lives if it was made illegal? Motorcycles kill way more than 300 folks a year, and nobody really *needs* one, so why not ban those? So do baseball bats. Sodas make people fat, so why not – as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted – ban the sale of anything larger than 16 oz.?

And if we’re going to selectively interpret our constitutional amendments, why stop with the 2nd? I can easily see the same argument and rationale being applied to speech, books, art, etc. Someone doesn’t like it, doesn’t see a need for it, so the response is to ban it. And rights, once taken, are rarely if ever returned. Once you have ceded the power to do something over to another entity, it is nearly impossible to get it back. It always starts small, with something that most people think is a good thing, but history has shown that once the proverbial foot is in the door, it’s just a matter of time before more and more rights & freedoms are confiscated in the name of safety, protection and our own “good.” So when and where does one draw the line?

Anyways, this is the core of my thinking when it comes to discussing this topic. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. I welcome any points, explanations or clarifications that anyone has to make on this subject.

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Chaplains & Gay Marriage

So a recent link was posted about Nancy Pelosi and a lack of a provision to protect chaplains from having to perform gay marriages.  The comments then got into what exactly a chaplain does or doesn’t do, and what rites/rituals they perform for members of their command.

First of all, a chaplain ministers to his or her unit, regardless of the religious belief of either the chaplain or the soldier.  What this means in practice is that I minister to the needs of my soldiers, whether they are Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, etc.  There are many ways to minister – counseling, enduring hardships, conducting services, and so on.  Most of them do not involve discussing my religious beliefs, and I always ask what the soldier’s religious background is before I bring mine to bear on the topic at hand.

That said, I would not be qualified to conduct last rites for a Catholic soldier who was dying – rather, I would make every effort to have a priest available who could do so.  Same goes for a Muslim or a Jew — I’m simply not qualified to perform their rituals, nor am I trained to do so.  If a qualified person *wasn’t* available, I would do whatever I could within the limits of *my* faith to provide comfort and ease their transition from this life.

In regards to this whole marriage thing, I think it’s really a non-issue. I mean, chaplains can’t be forced to marry *anyone* – gay or not.  My commander can’t (and certainly wouldn’t) give me an order to conduct a marriage ceremony for a soldier.  I know many chaplains who require couples who wish to get married to go through pre-marital counseling first; if they can’t/won’t/don’t then they refuse to perform the ceremony.  If the couple wants to get married that badly on their own, they can go to the justice of the peace.

Whether or not the bill expressly allows a chaplain an “out” in regards to gay marriage, a chaplain’s role is already clearly stated in AR 165-1, Ch. 3-2, para. b. To wit:

(5) Chaplain participation in marriage preparations and ceremonies is in keeping with individual conscience and distinctive faith requirements.

(6) Chaplains will not be required to perform a religious role in…other events if doing so would be in variance with the tenets or practices of their faith.  Chaplains will make every effort to provide for required ministrations which they cannot personally perform.

Another thing to keep in mind here is that chaplains don’t just serve the military services – they are responsible (and accountable) to their endorsing agency.  So for me, I am endorsed by the Baptist General Conference – if my conduct were to fall afoul of their doctrine, they could pull my military endorsement.  Were that to happen, I would be kicked out of the military because I could no longer function as a chaplain.  So to push this gay marriage thing on chaplains would result in several potential outcomes:

- The various services simply ignore the lack of “protection” and allow their chaplains to continue to perform – or not perform – marriages according to the dictates of their faith and in accordance with current Army/Navy/Air Force doctrine.

- The services require chaplains to perform gay marriages which are contrary to many chaplain’s beliefs, and the chaplains refuse to do so, resulting in either the resignation or court-martial of the chaplain for failure to obey a lawful order.  End result: the chaplain is kicked out of the military.

- The services require chaplains to perform gay marriages which are contrary to many chaplain’s beliefs, and the and the chaplain bows to the pressure and performs the services, resulting in their credentials being pulled by their respective endorsing agency.  End result: the chaplain is kicked out of the military.

So I see this whole Nancy Pelosi thing as a red herring designed to boost her credibility with her gay constituency while having no real impact on the military services in general and on chaplains in particular.  The vast, vast majority of chaplains I’ve met in my 23 years in the military are from predominantly conservative Protestant or Catholic traditions.  Most of them excel at what they do, and their commanders recognize the value they bring to their units.  I can’t imagine that any battalion, brigade or division commander would want to deal with the flak (not to mention the decrease in morale) that would inevitably result from firing a string of chaplains whose sole transgression is that they refused to compromise their religious beliefs by performing a gay marriage.

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A Bit Confused

So, today I was quietly called into the commander’s office here on the flightline, offered a seat, and quietly told that the results were in and that I had been considered but not selected for promotion to Major.

“Well, that’s a relief,” I thought, “for a moment I thought I was in trouble or something.”

I then explained to my CO that I hadn’t expected to be promoted – in fact, I had been assured that my name wasn’t even going to be considered by the promotion board this year.

If this sounds confusing – and it is – allow me to explain:

Due to my prior service in the Marine Corps, when I transferred over to the Army (first the Reserves, then the Guard) back in 2006, I came in with the rank of Captain.  And, for the next 5 years, while I went through seminary and worked on getting ordained and completing Chaplain Officer Basic School, I was accruing time in grade.  So, in the course of things, I was finally “assessioned” by the Guard as a chaplain in June of 2011, but the Federal Recognition of said selection was not completed until October of that year.  So far, so good.

Except that I learned in August that I was now in zone for Major, and would I be so good as to complete my packet and make sure that everything is shipshape for the DA Board which will be convening on 29 Nov 11.  Having read through all the relevant “Prepare For Your Board” documents, I realized that I didn’t stand a chance.  Not only did I not have a single Officer Evaluation Record (or OER), but I hadn’t completed the Military Education (MilEd) requirement – attending the Chaplain Captain’s Career Course.  If you don’t have your MilEd complete, they won’t even consider you – you just go into the stack of packets with those other poor souls who obviously don’t care much about their future careers.

Now, the astute readers here will no doubt realize that all of this is a bit silly:  of course there was no way I could complete the Career Course in the month between receiving my Fed Rec (and being “officially” recognized as a cross-wearing chaplain) and the convening date of the board.  There’s simply No. Way.  And even though I tried to at least register for the course, the system kicked my request out because – to them – I was still a chaplain candidate.

Please don’t think I’m pissed off because I won’t make O-4 this year.  I’m not.  Even if I did, I probably wouldn’t pin it on for quite some time.  And even if that happened, I’d still have to give it up to “Go Navy” here in the future.  No, what really chaps my hide is the fact that the system seems to be set up – albeit unintentionally – to punish prior service officers who elect to become chaplains.

You see, here’s how the system was “designed” to function:  Jody Schmuckatelli is a new seminary student.  A recruiter tells him about serving his country, and his God, as a chaplain, and he decides to sign up for the chaplain candidate program.  Now, 2LT Schmuckatelli continues with his education and drills with a local Guard unit, and all is well and good.  A few years later he gets promoted, and is now 1LT Schmuckatelli.  He cannot be promoted to CPT until he 1) completes his education; 2) gets ordained by his faith group; 3) finished Chaplain Basic School; and 4) successfully passes the assessioning board.  If he does all that successfully, he now finds himself as CH(CPT) Schmuckatelli, and has the next 5-6 years to learn the trade, make a deployment or two, complete his career course, get 4 or 5 OERs, and maybe get a few baubles on his chest before he’s ever in the zone for Major.

In my case, it’s complete all of the above steps, get a single 4-month OER, and go directly to the Major’s board.  Which is told to select those officers “who have best demonstrated leadership, effectiveness and potential for service at higher levels.”  Keep in mind that all the OERs (we called ‘em Fitness Reports) I received in my previous Marine Corps career are unseen by the board – they don’t care what I did or who I was as a Jarhead.

So if you were a board member, who would you select?  CPT Schmuckatelli, who has 9-10 years in the Army, and 5-6 as a chaplain?  Or CPT Harvey, who is still trying to figure out which side of the uniform the cross goes on?  And hasn’t even had a chance to do, well, much of anything just yet.  One brief OER. No schooling. A whopping 30 days of “official” chaplain experience.  I know who I’d pick.

What rankles me further is that this was supposed to have been taken care of before I left.  I submitted the requisite Letter to the President of the Board requesting an exemption to the MilEd requirement, due to my circumstances.  But then, five days before the board met, I received this email:

Sir/Ma’am,

As verified by the last four digits of your Social Security Number ending in ‘XXXX’, you have been removed as a candidate from the FY 2012 MAJ CH (ARNGUS) PSB.”

Problem solved, right?  Score one for common sense, right?  Wrong.  Hence today’s little episode.

Oh, our S-1 and the good folks back at our Joint Force HQ are all over it, of course.  National Guard Bureau will no doubt be involved.  Hopefully, they’ll get this overturned and I won’t have a 1-P “passed over” on my record.  But the future doesn’t look a whole lot brighter, because I’m still “uneducated,” and it’s not like they’re going to send me home from the sandbox to go to school now, are they.  No. No, they’re not.  So when the board convenes this fall, I’ll be in a marginally better situation than before, but still will fall far short of all the Shmuckatellis out there, who may have more years as a chaplain, but still – in many cases – lack the practical experience that comes from having 6 years of enlisted and 12 years of combat arms officer experience under their belt.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Reactions?

 

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A Bit About Me…

I’m not much of one to toot my own horn, but XBrad did ask for some particulars, so allow me to share…

I grew up in the South, born in Atlanta and raised in Virginia. Decided at age 10 that I wanted to be a Marine, and enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1988,  ultimately serving for nearly 6 years as an armorer with an artillery battery.

Attended Wheaton College, earning a degree in – of all things – graphic design. Which helps out more than you might think when it comes to designing t-shirts and coins or painting murals on walls and T-barriers.

Having completed OCS, I was commissioned as an active duty Marine Corps artillery officer in 1994 and completed two West Pacific deployments before leaving the Corps in the fall of 1999. I stayed in the Reserves and eventually assumed command of a reserve artillery battery  in 2001.

 

After 9/11, I returned to active duty and served in several staff positions at both Marine Corps Forces, Atlantic (Norfolk, VA) and Marine Corps Forces, Europe (Stuttgart, GE). While in Germany, I deployed to Senegal as part of a Mobile Training Team and to the Republic of Georgia as the XO of a task force training the Georgian 23d Battalion for duty in Iraq.

 

But as proud as I was to be a Marine, there was something else going on.  Having failed to “augment” as a Regular Officer back in 1999, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to serve a full career as an active duty Marine.  As my wife and I considered future career options back in the spring of 2004, I felt the Lord calling me to ministry. After praying about it, my wife and I both felt strongly that the Lord was leading me to serve as a military chaplain. In pursuit of this goal, I resigned my commission in the Marines in May 2006 (just after being selected for Major) and entered the Army’s chaplain candidate program.

Why the Army, you say?  I’m glad you asked.  You see, after 18 years in the Corps, I wasn’t sure that my motivation to serve as a Navy chaplain wasn’t somehow tied to my own desire to maintain my affiliation with Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children.  I also wondered if – were I to be assigned to a Marine battalion – I wouldn’t have a hard time not reverting back to being a Marine instead of a chaplain.  So, in order to avoid those potential conflicts, I took a hard left and went first into the Army Reserve and later into the National Guard, taking a demotion to Captain as well, since Majors are not eligible for initial entry on active duty as chaplains.

I graduated from Bethel Seminary San Diego and was ordained as a baptist minister in June 2010 .  About this time, I began to reconsider the Navy chaplaincy.  Having spent several years in a different branch and also having developed my own pastoral identity, I felt that I could serve with the Marines again without my previous fears being realized.  However, when I applied for the Navy a few months later, I was turned down for active duty – probably because they require their chaplains to have two years of post-graduate ministry experience.  After nearly a year of job hunting and rejection (not many churches want to hire a recent seminary grad), I found an opening with a Rhode Island National Guard aviation battalion which was preparing to deploy to Kuwait.  I interviewed, was accepted, and here I am at glorious Camp Buehring, Kuwait.  I’m told that I’m once again eligible to be promoted to Major on the next DA board.  Go figure.

Lord willing, once I return from this deployment I’ll apply again to be a Navy chaplain.  Kinda hard to argue that you don’t meet the qualifications if you have a combat deployment as a chaplain under your belt, right?

Oh, and if I do make Major this year?  Yeah, I’ll have to give that up again in order to “Go Navy.”  But y’know, I’m ok with that.  After all, I didn’t choose this profession for the rank that was in it, nor for the shiny things they tend to fling at your chest every now and then.  For me, it’s all about serving – and to be quite honest, I can probably do that more effectively as an O-3 than in any other grade.  ‘Cuz I’ve found that folks tend to laugh at Lieutenants and be a bit leery of Majors, but somehow Captains aren’t as threatening – especially when they’re also wearing a cross.

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