In a little over 72 hours I shall be reporting for active duty with the Air Force. I hope to be able to have enough access to the internet to post updates on the experience during the next four weeks of training. The next four weeks will be quite busy while I attend Commissioned Officers' Training at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. The typical schedule begins at 5:30am with physical training and concludes sometime around 9pm that evening. In addition there will be a weekend deployment field exercise which should be quite a bit of fun actually. I must admit I look forward to wearing BDU's for training as opposed to navy dungarees. I never cared much for this uniform while I was in the navy. My wife has been good enough to sew the name tapes and patches onto my BDU's so they are ready to go.
Last Sunday, Chaplain Schreiber (Navy Captain), head of the LCMS' Board for Armed Forces Ministry, commissioned me as a representative of that board as a chaplain to the armed forces. It is truly an honor to be entrusted with this responsibility not only by the Air Force but by our Synod. He shared some poignant words with the congregation, particularly that the board looks for men who can represent Christ and cooperate to accomplish the mission in a pluralistic environment without compromise of the Gospel. Military chaplaincy is a dual service. On one hand we represent Christ and make the public proclamation of the Gospel and on the other we serve the needs of the Air Force by helping personnel function at the highest possible level, which is also of benefit to personnel in their own lives for their well-being. Chaplain Schreiber has two key piece of advice to share with the new chaplain: he would not be politely ignored and he would strive to be relevant.
Having been through boot camp once before, there are aspects of the upcoming training that I do not relish reliving. (Lack of sleep for one.) However, I look forward to being back into uniform and the camaraderie of brothers and sisters. I will miss this area of Tennessee and my many friends both in my former parish and beyond it. But I look forward to the exciting opportunities to make a difference in the lives of our service men and women at this most important juncture in history. I truly believe these are paramount times for our nation and for humanity as a whole as well as for the church. I believe the chaplain is in a unique role to be leaven in the military to touch the lives of people and so touch the direction of our times. I also believe the job is worth doing to assist our service men and women in these most difficult and trying of times. I will be most happy to have my family settled in DC at Andrews and to be getting to work. Right now, though I am focusing on getting through these next weeks. I have been preparing for training. The last month or so I have been exercising 3-4 hours per day. I believe I am in physical condition for these next weeks thanks to lots of biking, weight training, and some intense aerobics classes at our local YMCA.
I have been most encouraged and touched by the support given by friends from our former parish who have promised to keep watch over my wife and family in my absence. I won't name them, as they know who they are. I would only share that for those who have given so much of themselves to us in these past few months, you have my and my wife's greatest appreciation and thankfulness. In the midst of trying times, friends have been a great blessing to us.