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Is God calling you to serve as a U.S. Army Chaplain?

By Leanne Thomas 5th Medical Recruiting Battalion

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As the chaplain for the 502d Force Support Group prepares to retire, Army Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Cloyd L. Colby felt prompted to write a letter inviting prospective chaplain candidates to consider military ministry.

With over 36 years of active military service, Colby is in a unique position to extend this invitation.

“Dear prospective Army Chaplain,

Though we have not met, I believe it isn’t mere coincidence that you are reading this letter. In my faith, I honor your faith and commitment as a spiritual leader. I certainly had some concerns as I considered becoming an Army chaplain.

First and foremost, how would it impact my family? What would it be like to be an officer with all the responsibility that implies? And, as I had served in the National Guard, would I be able to cut it in the “real” Army? Finally, what would happen if I didn’t stay until retirement—what would be my back-up plan?

Looking back with the advantage of perspective, I see I need not have worried so much.

My family has benefitted greatly from engaging with military life and values. They have been enriched by the diversity of experiences and peoples and nations. While there is much expected of an officer, we are not required to master everything in the first assignment. Like any profession, chaplains grow from job to job. I have learned to value what both the U.S. Army Reserve and the National Guard bring to the table of our common defense. And I have learned to work with all ranks, enlisted and officer to accomplish required missions. Although I haven’t needed a “back-up” job, I gained training and skills that transfer quite well to civilian ministry. Not everyone desires to stay 20 years, and that’s just fine. Military ministry can develop your scope, depth and capabilities.

Along with concerns, I had my share of hopes. I had previously gone through basic training and noticed how our chaplain got things done through side-by-side leadership. By that I mean he was not a directive authoritarian, but a mentor who was on our side, coaching us to solve problems before they escalated, and inspiring us to be our best selves amidst challenges.  I noticed he had this same effect on the drill sergeants and the commander, too. That intrigued me, and I hoped to become that type of servant-leader.

Here are some of the talents, gifts and skills I have developed and shared along the way:

1. Side-by-side leadership. The ministry of mentoring, keeping calm amid chaos, always engaging with my soldiers and their families.

2. Adaptability. I have worked with and supported a myriad of personalities, cultures and faiths. I have developed a deeper appreciation for people whose faith is different than mine but who have a reverence for what is eternally important and sacred.

3. Music. I love to connect with people through music, whether encouraging people to develop their talents, joining in choirs, and even composing music for various events. This connection via music has helped me quickly bond with other people and gain their trust and acceptance. I am deeply satisfied when I begin a training session by leading the singing of “God Bless America,” a song, which is really a prayer.

4. Organization leadership. I learned how to organize projects, develop staffs, and create cohesive teams that serve thousands of people. I have learned to apply these skills in my personal and family life which provides incredible hope for tackling challenges in the civilian sector.

5. Ecumenical experience. I have grown professionally and personally as I have served and led within various faith traditions. Repeatedly, military ministry reminds me of how connected we are to each other and to Deity. I treasure these experiences, for they deepen my faith and help me realize my own connection to the universe.

Now, as my formal career as a chaplain winds down, I invite you to consider military ministry as an Army chaplain. Like me, you have concerns and hopes for the future of you and your loved ones. And you have been blessed with gifts, talents and skills that would be wondrously utilized and developed as a chaplain. May God bless you in considering the call as an Army chaplain - not from the perspective of fear, but from the deepest source of your faith.”