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tv   Oral Histories U.S. Navy Reserves Chaplain Gerald Hutchinson  CSPAN  July 26, 2021 4:40am-6:30am EDT

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human research center. >> i was born in north carolina as i mentioned and probably one of the more significant formative events in my life was when i was nine years old, my mother died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage and went to bed on a sunday night and woke up monday morning and she was
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gone. then of course greatly impacted our family and if she was 31 and my dad was 33. i was nine. my younger sister was for and so thereafter, my dad really struggled in his grief away ultimately anyway lost and house, i didn't fully comprehend all that was when nobody left his job at hand kind of struggled to get his footing thereafter predict physically i grew in the carolinas. lived in various times in parts of north carolina. and south carolina and even in virginia a couple of times and also in collinsville, virginia. i'm the eldest of children i have younger sister who is five years my junior. so my dad racism never remarried. and that was just a little bit of my going up previous month i
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noticed you entered the naval reserve 98, what if you done prior to that pretty. >> , minister like graduated from seminary, then i completed another graduate degree in social work at the university of louisville, kentucky my first full-time position after school was in jacksonville north carolina which is known of the marine corps base. i was working with the new river baptist association, i grew up 35 churches in the envelope and also in jones counties and part of eastern north carolina. [inaudible]. my dad had served in korea and the army and he occasionally we talk about that predict new snippets about that, that he was part the service and he was a
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medic and certainly i was a teenager during the years of the vietnam war predict i remember registering for the draft and as i recall, my draft number was high. i was planning to go to college anyway so didn't really seem like an imminent had a possibility that i would be drafted. so went on to school in a couple of years into my college time, the war ended so long story short, after seminary we moved, my wife and i moved to jacksonville, north carolina and work with the new river association. it was really my introduction into the military. because it camped is kind of the tail that wags the dog in jacksonville, north carolina. economically, the population and many of the member of our churches work retired marines and navy.
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people worked on the base and civilians. so my first time to really rub shoulders with military personnel and i can remember when my wife and i came down for the job interview. late-summer in 1981. when i graduated seminary i consider myself a pacifist, think many seminaries do pretty so i can remember entering the area within the search committee asked me how you feel when you drive under the camp i'm certainly going have opportunities to do that, work with military family so how are you going to feel when you do that predict remember exactly what is remember back to the hotel but i did tell my wife and it think i just blew the job interview because i said them a pacifist and i don't have problems working with military people but on antiwar pretty
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well fortunately i did not blow the job interview so we came there. i began to learn what it's like, military people are like everybody else to put their pants on one leg at a time there some wonderful people in the military, veterans and active-duty nurses stickers as well. the baptist association is sponsored kind of like a, i would call it named the welcome and and it was in the downtown part of jacksonville where most service people came you were single particularly printed in their off hours to relax and drink and do whatever. would love to service people became an to the welcome mennonite when a retarded couple kind of grandmom and grandpa and operated that's was an important ministry. there wasn't any part that was not impacted with military personnel either as volunteers
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or targets of outrage and concerns. that experience we lived there for five and a half years i think that experience really helped a human face on military personnel for me in recent say that is ranexa job was here in atlanta with the board of the southern baptist convention. i moved here in 1987 and one of the first all staff luncheons where i and a couple of other new people were introduced afterwards one of the colleagues vice president of the communications division came up and said, i heard that you live in jacksonville near the camp pretty and think you would be wonderful navy reserve chaplain and he was serving the navy
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reserve and encouraged me to think about that predict i can bloom off no interest in that. moved to the city i am the new job, new things to learn and blessing one need to do is join the military so over the course of a year, every time we saw one another he would say, you gotta think about serving in the navy reserve, thank you would be a wonderful chaplain giving your experience. and every time i would say no i'm not interested. just as an appeal to me. the sort of think. finally one day, not ten months later i said maybe i should consider this pretty i can remember going home and talking with my wife about it and her dad had served in korea in the army. my attitude changed and i thought maybe i should at least
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explore this and see will come of it. so i began to work with a recruiter. and i hit a roadblock physically. and high blood pressure is the kind of just pull the plug out of my application to join the navy. i started exercising and i lost weight and i brought my blood pressure into control of any of reengaged the process. every chaplain who serve in the military as a commission it has an officer in an endorsement by the faith group that says this person is a bona fide baptist clergyman we endorsed them serve in the navy. so the organization i work with, among as many passes of work, the chaplains commission was the endorsing body for the southern baptist convention and i certainly knew the people there and getting the endorsement was easy enough once i got back home on track to get my commission,
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the did ultimately pass the physical and eventually joined the navy on august 31st, 1888. how is my kind of victory into the chaplain corps. so i almost didn't do it for you is responsive when candidate began talking to me at first and over the course of ten months i began to turn around and think more seriously about it. i was 34 years old. when i joined the navy and the camp of the time was 35 predict just made it under a device. my first drill was independent planet, continuous air reserve base on one side you have the navy and marine corps on the other side, is the air force party i drilled for about 13 years here in the atlanta area either there on the naval air
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station side are some of the related to groups that are in proximity to a flat. since a little bit about panama kind of accidental chaplain i guess in joining the navy. but it really very much enjoyed it once i started to drill. in those days the active-duty chaplain it was there naval air station would not let you drill until you had completed the basic chaplain course in the navy chaplain school. so i got orders i came on, reserve commission in august and i think that is november mid-october in early november november when i went off to the chaplain school and island pretty that is an eight week course of instruction and the reservists, they will let them break it into two four-week sections that's what i did. so did the first half in october and november of 1998 and then i came back into the second half
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starting in january of 1989. supper that is able to go back and fully be signed to a drilling reserve unit. >> during the period from 88 until you and overseas, you primarily perform your duties on the weekends and then during the summer take a week or two of active duty or how that works for your schedule you pretty. >> must reservists have that kind of rhythm, you do one weekend a month and they do 40 - 17 day sometime during the year. in support of that unit that you are part of and of course those of the u.s. is not a war. the time was pretty much training. in my first assignment was with you in it supported the uss saratoga and an actually ever in a never went to the gym because it to my first two sets of
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annual training two week period, to get it chaplain school. some of the time that i had completed those couple of years, the very next year i rotated out of the saratoga unit into the squadron there and what was then known as maggie 49 essie. so i spend about three years with the saratoga group and then what color green, when you're navy reserve and blew his navy grayness with marine corps kennett. >> and asking the question here. as saratoga and talk about - crediting. >> when the personnel visited training they would actually go to the saratoga and fill in the various department of the ship based on their freighting or whatever.
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so our group, our drilling reserve unit augmented the uss saratoga. the ships crew. but never made it there because i spent my two. going to chapel in school then moved that into the marine corps. the one piece of advice when i went to chaplain school was do co. homestead in the particular unit. back in those days, there was no code for your path in the navy reserve like there is now. so the advice we received is you wanted to get a variety be screens because the navy chaplain serve not only with the navy personnel and of course in the navy you have ships and you have surface ships and submarines and you have air navy. but navy often provides to the marine corps the coast guard and the merchant marines. so they advised us to get try to get a variety of experiences so
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that if you ever got recalled to active duty that you would hopefully be prepared to go to the coast guard unit marine corps unit or worship or with a naval squadron or coast guard or whatever. so try to follow that predict varied my assignments then later on in the navy reserve, the actually put time limits on assignments to the had a rotational even as a reservist. >> hydro changed from a military standpoint on the world trade center was attacked pretty. >> that was like hundred 80 degrees in september 2001 had recently come left the mission board of the commission that july and came to the staff in atlanta. to literally my first full week at the church began on septembe.
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i was with one of my older members who work in the building committee and he was showing me around and announced of the church plant is probably new before we finish our tour i learned about the bombings that it happened the morning, of planes crashing into the pentagon and into the twin towers pretty so i literally so that was kind of my welcome to the baptist church and i can remember shortly thereafter getting phone call from the readiness command chaplain who was over that geographic region wanted to know if i was in a position to be recalled pretty want to be on the first wave our second wave or the third wave. and i explain him that i had just come to a new church and they don't know me, they know that i have this commitment is a reservist to be gone one weekend a month but i'm not sure the wisest thing would be for me to
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come onto active-duty and a church in a just been employed up for a week or two. stephen put me down as a reserve. basically, that's what they did. i didn't get a recall those early days after 911. >> talk about the events surrounding your recall how you felt about it. now the change your life. >> i joined the navy reserve in august of 1998 so i had 13 years of monthly training and subsequent periods of active duty for training you know, you always talk about what would it be like if the country went to war and you got to go to after the duty. i began to see that then the plan was that you were part of the units in your entire unit would be called and he would go
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to the ship for whatever predict that would happen in 2001, at least with the navy reservist was what they later began to call individual and rather than taking your unit and bringing the whole unit on active duty, more likely to try picking some skill set whether to chaplain are until our mps or whatever. individuals getting assignments, to be recalled to supplement the active-duty components. so my first recall of an into thousand four and i just completed a three-year assignment in one of the most unique ones i had my time and reserve a small navy submarine base. if it's about once a quarter would go down to the bahamas i
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was only chaplain at that base and a small base of about 300 people and i would meet with boh the congregation and we had a chapel coordinator it would facilitate volunteers it would come over each weekend and lead services from the mainland. mainly retired chaplains and they were catholic diocese of the bahamas was in a deacon over every saturday to do the catholic service in about once a quarter, preschool, grade some kind of supervised the chapel coordinator and then i came once a quarter and spent six days there pretty portion of their he led the protestant services and impact is so under the services but i related pretty warmly with both the catholic community in the protestant community. my first experience to be the command chaplain and a navy base was a chapel centric on an
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island. ... ... certain people get placed periodically in the btu and but that means is that you get put in a btu unit and you do your monthly drills but you don't get paid. you are still training. you are a crew of point and each day you serve as a reservist so you accrue points that will ultimately impact your check and retirement, and so that was my first tour in the btu. and so i didn't want to just sit around trying to pass two days worth of time a month.
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the chaplain with marine air group 42 here in atlanta, i asked him if i could volunteer and maybe relate to one of the marine helicopter squadrons because i had been part of the mag in earlier assignments. he was glad that the. he didn't have all of his positions filled and so that is where it was in 2004. i was helping out at mag 42 but i was in a voluntary training status. mag 42 had a squadron which is marine light attack helicopter squadrons but the huey and the cobras, the attack gunship in the multipurpose huey and the squadron there had been doing rotations to afghanistan.
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they had already completed two, six-month rotations with different people coming and going and didn't sub timber they were sending a third rotation to afghanistan. my friend who is a group chaplain did not want to go forward because the circumstances at his church in south carolina was such that he really couldn't afford to be away and to go so i volunteered to go to afghanistan. at that point i was a commander in the navy and i can remember when i officially said i will volunteer. i lost sleep there for a couple of nights thinking what is afghanistan? worry is it? iraq was the major focus of attention in those days but we had a presence in afghanistan with osama bin laden i guess
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since late 2001. and finally after three or four sleepless nights i can remember i had a friend who was serving at marine forces reserve headquarters on the religious side and he called me up to just kind of verified. hey i hear you are going to afghanistan but i think the relevé is you are too senior so we are really looking for a lieutenant, not a commander. once he said that my bubble is popped and i figured you know i'm too old, i'm too senior they are going to to send me so i could kind of relax. this is probably like sometime in late set number. and so i was kind of reengaged in my volunteer work at mag 42 and then i was at home in early november of 2004 in that same friend of mine called me and
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said jerry are you still interested in going to afghanistan and in the interval of a heartbeat i said yes and he said well this has been the darndest thing. everybody that i've tried to recall gets to a certain point in the process and it would just fell through. i think you are our person. he said we will have your orders cut tomorrow. that didn't happen but within two weeks i was on active duty and ironically and interestingly going to camp lejeune i did my check-in like a reservist who goes on active duty. there's a fair amount of influx you do medically in administratively, uniform and issuing your gear. one of the big things is going from the reserve phase system to the active-duty face system. i remember my wife and i driving to camp lejeune in november 2000
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or for me to report into the navy processing side to camp lejeune and going through all those hoops to get a neck of duty into the active-duty pay system and getting my final medical clearances in all of this. i just felt like in that interval that this was the right thing for me to do but i can remember having read a magazine in the sunday paper an article that had a picture of i think the secretary of the navy who was in afghanistan. his son was a marine and i felt the deep sense of longing that i wanted to be there. i had been a reservist for at that .16 years. i was wondering what it would be like to go to war in can i make a contribution click so i would
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pray particularly after 9/11. lord, in your time and at the right place i'm willing to go so finally that call came in 2004 and after thanksgiving i'd had cleared all the hoops they are through nts and came back to atlanta and boarded a flight here in atlanta that took me overseas. c tell us about your tour. what was your first impression when he landed in the country and i know you dealt with many afghans that were part of your responsibilities and you had the unique experience for members of the military and exactly what you did it tell us about that and what you did in what your feelings were. >> remember that the squadron had gone forward. they have gone to afghanistan in
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september so this is late november and early december. they had been married to those months without chaplain. they read bagram airfield in bagram afghanistan and they sat down at the previous attachment from hml 8773 so all the hangers they worked out of in the housing units they were very clear with. their colleagues had been there before but i was going forward and i boarded an air transportation command plane here in atlanta and we flew through frankfurt germany and landed in kuwait. remember we got there late at night and the kind of pointed us to the warehouse type place where we would be villa did. i was carrying a couple of sea bags, my banjo and books. it took me three trips.
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anytime i move i have three trips worth of getting my gear. my trash it seems like from one place to the other in the eye got to did kuwait and i had some difficulty trying to then get into afghanistan. kuwait was an entry point and an exit point for folks who are going to afghanistan so most people were there for going forward into iraq are coming back from being in iraq. i had to kind of check-in and i got into the database in kuwait and i learned that there was a flight to afghanistan the next day. it was another unit but you know i couldn't get on that flight because there weren't any available seats. a day later there was a flight that was going and i remember going to the air terminal there
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in kuwait and again i didn't make the cut on the flight. so i came back to camp lagoon and somewhat frustrated at this point trying to make it to afghanistan. i finally came back to the air terminal and there was a flight that left that night. i spent the entire night at the terminal but the next day i was able to get a flight to the car. i flew to guitar with all of mice -- to qatar with all of my stuff. i landed in bagram afghanistan on december 7 of 2004 and the commanding officer met me there at the terminal and my assistant or religious program specialist first class martin benson met me there and they helped me get my gear. my first impression was that everybody carried a weapon and most of the pilots had a
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shoulder holster to 9-mm and the personnel had m-16s and they carried him wherever they went to the joel to the gym to the head. i thought this is different seen people carrying weapons. if as a champ and i'm a noncombatant and i don't have a weapon and my religious program assistant as my bodyguard so we always have places together. there was relative safety there in the camp so i didn't worry too much about camp but every time we travel his duty was to protect me and assist me as we minister to people. i thought it was fortuitous to arrive at by grum on december 7, a memorable day and a hard two or three days to get there. >> talk about your experiences
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there particularly with the afghani people. >> again i was with the sub 873 and they were not part of mag 42. they were out of miramar california and h. mh designates a helicopter the ch 53 helicopters. it's the largest helicopter in any of the military branches and i can ask board a humvee. we had the big 50 threes and we have the hueys and the cobras and then we had murray in aviation logistics squadron that provided maintenance at the port. there were a fair number of contracts. another off half for me was how many contractors now go to war
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better military personnel doing everything from construction to food service. the folks that i worked with most closely were relation experts. maybe they had to reach back to get certain supplies. avionics, hydronic-somethings like that. they were subject matter experts active duty who kept the birds flying and they would consult on technical issues or have to reach back to get certain pieces of equipment. there was a good mix of contractors as well as military personnel. at bagram airfield you had the international security assistance force. it's definitely a joint effort so air force, army-navy marine
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corps there were some "ncis" people on the plane. the plane that i took from qatar to bagram we were in a big c-130 and there were four of us in three of them were "ncis" agents and myself. i later learned the "ncis" agents were coming there to investigate a sexual assault that occurred in one of the units that i was chaplain with. that was kind of sobering. so bagram is a very diverse place in addition to the joint u.s. forces there were koreans. there were the brits. there were the australians in the egyptians and so there it's a multinational force and it was quite an education to be in a joint force and to be in an international force. ahead to registering experiences
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that i will tell you about. >> i would like to hear about some of those experiences. >> i got there in the season of advent on the christian calendar so i was prepared. i communicated and coordinated with my rp to gear up for the celebration of advent and christmas. i brought the thing to do that and it's a wonderful time of year to arrive and firmer rains, we had our own chapel at bagram airfield. it was a plywood structure. it was very humble and a place where we had worship services and their products picture to show you. this was taken on christmas eve of 2004 in these were the people who were in attendance that night. you can see we had aviators.
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we had air crew. we have support people and it was a fairly diverse group. we had a wonderful experience with worship on christmas eve and i will never forget that. i could never open the door that plywood chapel and the stars were outstanding that night and i was thinking you know "oh, holy night" what an incredible sight. >> they are got into the spirit from the spirit for miles away. >> absolutely. >> you were inundated with gifts from back home, items beef jerky, candy bars, cookies, personal hygiene items socks and things that families send their loved ones to let them know that they are still remembered and there was such an abundance of that the people were giving their excess and we have a certain room where we put all
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the excess stuff and if you needed toothpaste or a toothbrush or you had a certain type of deodorant that you like the chances were good that you could come into that little area and find what you needed. even without we still have such abundance that one of the things that my assistant had started doing is the egyptians function there was to operate a field hospital and it was there primarily for the afghan nationals who lived adjacent to bagram airfield. so we would go over to the egyptian hospitals about once a week and there was an anti-area between the boundary of the hospital and the exterior security gate of the airfield and everyday people would calm from out of the little community
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of log room to see -- to seek medical help so they would come to medics and they would rush in the men and identify them and that between area before they came into the egyptian hospital and you could go there with excess food and hygiene items and stuff and we would give things away to the afghans. i recall almost like biblical scenes of people bringing someone on the blanket that needed to see a doctor or maybe carrying them on their back. distressing and the people that came in ambulatory. they would pass through our little area and we would give everybody something. it might be some food items or some hygiene items or socks.
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we began giving away stocks. it was wintertime and i would notice that many people didn't have socks. so we began to write home and say hey send us socks and send us -- so we would give those things away once a week and it was a very beautiful thing. our ceo did not want their personnel to go outside the wire. we were aviation and we had no business in his mind going out of the protective bounds of bagram airfield to interact with the locals. so that was really the only chance that a lot of the marines had to really meet an afghan person and to interact with them. i can remember as we were getting ready to leave was asking them rank what's the special memory you'll take home from this deployment almost
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exclusively the one to participate in the egyptian hospital said meeting the people at the egyptian hospital. it was a wonderful chance to interact. and to help people to be goodwill ambassadors and we really really enjoyed that. we had such in the end it's of stuff and we would never use it so we gave it to people who could make good use out of it. at bagram airfield most of our equipment and their personnel were at a forward operating base called salerno and salerno was on the eastern border between afghanistan and pakistan. and so we would rotate our personnel between salerno and bagram. bagram was the place to come
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back and recover. it was paradise and salerno was more of a fob. the amenities there were nothing compared to bagram. we headed better than a lot and that's where most of the missions were flown out of salerno. my rp and i we would periodically travel to salerno to meet with our people there and those were always meaningful times. you would -- i would go with the pilot and he would go with the enlisted personnel and we would be there to not only hang out with them but to find out how they were doing. and prior to my arriving my assistant has been volunteering
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and serving at the chapel on bagram. there was an army chapel called the enduring faith chapel. this was operation enduring faith and the army had gotten quite used to having him in their duty rotation. when i came aboard i wanted him to kind of step back from volunteering at the army chapel so he and i would have the freedom to travel and see where people were. that was a rotation with the army chaplain. i had to reassure them that i was going to be a good team player and this is was really my first experience in a joint environment that i had learned in my intermediate advanced training in school that jointness is the way we fight wars they say. i knew was important to be a good joint player. i can remember telling my co that the army was pushing back
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on me a little bit during the rp and he said just tell them to go to. you are our chaplain. i said no, no i need a good team player in this mix. occasionally they work me into the rotation. i would preach at the army chapel about once a month as well as do services at our humble chapel have bagram airfield. in addition to administering to the people there are growing we would travel periodically to salerno and the army chaplain who was kind of the senior chaplain for the area tasks us to go to a more remote fob where there were marines there and they did not have the chaplain. we got the assignment to go every 15 days to a guy -- a place called camp blessing which is in the coup in our province kind of in northeast
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afghanistan. they were amazing experiences at camp blessing. came blessing was a very humble place for the building itself was a concrete or stone type building that had once been like a sanatorium for people with tuberculosis or people -- in fact right next to the stretcher was a graveyard in the graveyard had the most jag kind of headstones. we are used to seeing granite works of art. these would be like triangular pieces that were chiseled out of roker now was some sort of mao at. the story that i heard was the taliban came in the area and the people there at the sanitarium would dig their own graves and then they killed them and buried
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them in the graves next to the place. it was a very modest structure. it didn't have running water. there was a river nearby and they hired an afghan to gather water from the river every day in bringing about. this is on top of the hill. you always want to have a high point so someone would wring water up to camp blessing so that we could, not that we drank it but they did use it and flushing the toilet in that sort of thing. but there was only one shower and the plumbing had been gerryrigged so the faucet was about here so any time you took a shower you had to crouch down. water was so precious that you took a nice navy shower and you lathered up turn the water off the menu rinsed yourself. most of the time it was not
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warm. fact it was so frustrating that i never bathed when i went to camp blessing was just too darned hard to take a shower there. so was just very modest facilities. later on the commandant of the marine corps came to see the troops in afghanistan and i guess he went to camp blessing and there's a spartan and their living quarters and he actually had to build a more modest kitchen so they could do more in terms of food preparation. they had kind of a recreational room. so there were some amenities there other than just down structure that they lived in. we went there every 15 days and the marine oic there had a very good relationship with the
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people in the little village nearby. occasionally we would go out side with the marines as our escort. >> talk about we observe. >> my first experience was outside of the gate there, some locals had invited us so we had a feast of sorts there go to glamour rice and fresh bread out in the open sitting in chairs. you could see the hides were they had killed the goat that day and had skinned it. the food was delicious and it was an amazing experience to be out there with the locals. we got a bit of a sense of what the market was like. we were a curiosity to the people so they would stop and gawk at us but one of my first
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experiences with its to go outside the wire and enjoy the wonderful afghan meal and their hospitality. i was surprised that they had plastic bottles there. how in the world did they get pensacola in the small village in afghanistan? they were very warm and they were very cordial and it was only men. you would never interact with the women but that was my first experience. they also had the afghan security force was contiguous to camp blessing. the military personal there and afghan security force were very cooperative and did things directly. they have some observation points in the high points of the mountains and they would hire a young boy to tank a donkey up -- take a donkey up to resupply whatever was needed to show you a picture of what that was like.
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this was the little boy who they hired to climb up that very steep mountain and resupply the folks at the ot. >> he would ring things down from the mountain. >> more portly weather was food water boots or whatever and they paid them a modest amount to do that. so that was kind of interesting to see. these were very steep mountains and things settle old boy would go by himself and do that. another amazing experience i had , let me show you another picture. helping them get the water cans in their boots and all he would take these up to the mountain. one day i was in the chow hall
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at bob graham and the contractor came up to me and said hey chaplain i've got a couple of cases of -- do you think there's anything that you could do with these? i said yeah given to me i will figure out something. my art he and i took it case of these with us and whenever we were there kids were always hanging out at the entry gate at camp blessing. they loved it when he would come down to the gate and indirect with them or throw snowballs at them or that sort of thing. we brought this case of frisbees and we would come outside the gate. there was a police building their atif village to the left in and the kids were always playing about. we gave every kid in every adult or frisbee and then we taught
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them what to do with frisbees. i was trying to see if i had a picture of throwing frisbees with people in afghanistan. that was so much fun. even the police would throw with us. i was afraid we would come back from a trip and see that they were using it to heat off of. but they had great fun and was so much fun for them to throw a frisbee. they knew exactly what we were referring to. that was kind of a neat thing to do. so i had multiple opportunities to engage with the local people there at camp blessing. the coup in our province is a very dangerous area. in fact camp listing had been attacked on christmas day before we came in january.
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he wasn't excited about me going anyway but he did agree to let us do that. i felt like i lived a charmed life in afghanistan because my rp and i would go to salerno and bagram would be rocketed and we come back to bagram and salerno would be rocketed. we were always at the right place if we ever came under attack but wanted their place we had personnel was another fob called oregon e. they think it's in the province and we went there on new year's eve of 2004. we went to salerno and took a flight from salerno to bear there. that is what we call the farc and arming and refueling point heard helicopters who were not part of the country would come
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in land temporarily imbue refueled and rearmed so the marines there operated it. i did not forget how prescient it was to see those young marines. anytime a helicopter was coming and they would literally sprint can be on station to refuel and to rearmed a church. it didn't matter what the weather was. we left new year's eve than 2004 and we had 24 inches of snow that night we got snowed in. we are expected to spend the night and leave on new year's day but we spent a week there because the weather was so bad that the helicopters could not fly. my rp and i spent seven wonderful days there. we were planning on it and i think i wore the same clothes for seven days.
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things there were even more modest than bagram. all we had there were houses and there were no lights so if he had used the bathroom at night you waited until you were totally ready to do what needed to be done and go out to the outhouse and do your business. so the meals were more, less diverse there. we would have meetings with the army and keep up with what was happening there at that province. that was the only time we went there. most of the time my rp and i would go to salerno or came blessing but we never came
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there. >> how was the morale of our troops? >> i think the morale was great and the pride that these marines took in their jobs was impressive to me. to see them sprinting to the landing zone into watts the marines of grum. one of the few week crews had a female door -- and she was the ultimate professional. she had already earned her combat insignia and it said airman on the helicopter. these were people who took great pride in what they did maintaining the hydraulics of the bird whether it be an ordinance for recruitment or whatever. i will not forget their pride in what they did and their desire
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to serve. the morale was good while we were there. the marines did shorter deployments. i think the squadrons would do six months at a time and they'd go out of another contingent of the squadron would come and do their time. this update 773 did 18 months in afghanistan with a the six month juncture. i was with the third group that had come there eight the chap on the head of the time was new to the navy and needed to chaplain corps. he got married just before he
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did boy and he was terribly homesick. he just did not function while there and they ultimately sent him home. that was kind of a perception that a lot of these helicopter pilots and some of the marines had of a chapel. i do think part of god's will for me to go as a more senior person was to help reestablish some of the credibility of the program among that particular group of marines. >> it's a like you did it. >> i did my best. i did more counseling that i've ever done in my life. and most of the time when people deploy its matters of relationship with boyfriends, girlfriends, wives of that sort of thing. i met in air force officer who he and his wife to could just
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build a brand-new home in texas and he got a deer john letter. his wife had decided to hook up with a gentleman who had built their home so that was a real difficult thing to work through. but many of the counseling concerns related to relationships. >> when did you leave afghanistan? >> i left in april of 2005. 2004 and 2005 was a very cold snowy winter in afghanistan. bagram is i think 7000 feet elevation. you can see it melting in the eyes have snow i'm told. it's a beautiful place but it was a very cold winter in the
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taliban was inactive when i was there big as they aren't equipped to direct operations in the snow when we had a lot of snow that winter. one other interesting thing that came blessing somehow i've gotten connected with the lutheran church in south carolina and there are group had handmade some dolls that they wanted to send to the afghans in stupid to give them away. i said send them to me and i will do that. it would either be at the egyptian hospital or at camp blessing and ultimately we did at both places. i will never forget that camp blessing we hiked from came blessing into the next town over which is probably about a mile or so. i said we need to take these dolls with us because if we have
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a chance to meet a girl or a family with their daughter on this trip and sure enough we did and we revolt to give the site out of them too to the children we saw. >> lowest direction of the kids? >> they were willing to engage with us because particularly men and adult men don't relate to children in non-afghans don't like to relate to afghans. i would get down on my knees and pulled them all out of the box and these are like raggedy ann type dolls and they gave those to them and they took them. i felt so good. my rc took some pictures in south carolina. that was kind of a neat experience that we had. another interesting thing that i've noticed as many of the places i would go the marines would make pets of some of the stray dogs and cats or whatever. at came blessing they had kind of a friend and a rhesus monkey
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and the name tim mr. peepers. mr. peepers eventually would go out and the marines would go out on patrol and they had dogs that they would take with them because the dog could smell somebody before they might see them particularly if you're climbing up the mountain. mr. peepers would jump on the backs of the dogs and ride the dog. he was the funniest thing that i got to see them ride on the back of one of those dogs. it's probably not the smartest things to do in terms of getting hit that they have befriended mr. peepers and they taught them how to smoke a cigarette. but one of them ran to all grum had befriended a dog and some help persuaded the marine corps to let her take that dog back to the u.s.. she took her r&r and to that dog back home. they rather places where they
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had befriended dogs in their living quarters. it's kind of like a sense of normalcy whether it be a cat or dog or a monkey in the different places that we travel. >> when he left afghanistan did you go back to your previous weekends and one week a year? >> let me tell one more story about afghanistan and then i will rap that up. the week before we left we experienced a -- and it had been one of my marines and again those were primarily ordinance personnel and he had stayed with one of the marines and i had met this young man could he was a very devout christian and i remember him coming to bible study there to chaplain bagram and him talking about he had
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already paid to go on a trip to the holy land. he was a very serious intense young man and his specialty was ordinance. well as we were beginning to retrograde to get back home we were boxing up stuff and this was the last of it of the rotation cycle so there were things that we were sending back on the c-130 and the helicopters themselves were going to shift somewhere and be transported back to the u.s.. sergeant lee had volunteered to stay and keep count of the munitions there at oregon me and be responsible for that in combat to bagram. all the other marines had come back to the states. in his trip back to helicopter crash was an army chinook helicopter in it crashed with everybody on board.
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i will never forget, this happened less than a week before we were to go home and it was my first experience going go into what we call the river city restricted communications. i can remember my rp and i were watching a movie and the word began to pass around we are going to have a formation. this seau wants to see you. he told me that they were going to notify the next of kin. but restricted communication meant that they would shut down all the computers and phone so no one would e-mail or call back to let this word get out before they could notify his family. i will never forget we were in formation in one of the marines it's like his knees became
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buckled. it was a bittersweet end to what had been a successful deployment it's one of those things you never forget. >> we were aviators so we were fortunate we were glad we had very few combat engaged once and this was just one very unfortunate accident that had happened. i brought my diary and i laid it on the day the sergeant was killed in a helicopter crash. they said this word hit us like a bombshell and there was another thing. he said he had written to his mom and told them to stop watching the news because they would always get upset and scared and his mother said he told us, and less easy to
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marines waiting for you i'm okay and the mother said that night but that's what she saw. so as i say very that are sweet and to our deployment. as a christian i was comforted that he was very much a person who is committed to his faith and when we had his memorial service and they did the battlefield cross with the inverted weapon they put his bible in between his boots because they knew that he loved to study the bible. i had never seen that uphill cross where they put a the person's bible between their boots. i certainly have done many memorial services and we did the very best we could to honor his memory and to help bring some
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feelings into one of those rituals that's beneficial in the grieving process but it was almost -- also my first experience to observe and be part of what they termed as angel flights. any time you were bringing the body of a soldier or a marine home they'd prefer to those as angel flights. i remember there was a ceremony you would go through in the caskets are loaded onto the plane and all the troops come and gather and give the map processional. we would go in and pray for each casket. it was a bittersweet ending to what had been a very productive and good and safe deployment. i think it was his sense of wanting to hey you are all going back to bagram i will stay here and be responsible for the
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ordinance and i think a sandstorm determined that somehow the pilots lost situational awareness and he thought he was accelerating to go upwards and he was accelerating and going down and it crashed and killed everybody on board. >> i know you are comforted those marines that were there. >> well you know we did our best and when we got back here to atlanta we had a memorial service. his mother and sister came as well up to the chapel. but yes to answer your question, when i returned i was talking to this vtd you and continue to volunteer at mag 42 so i got picked up in the next go-round. i actually got it till it there -- and to let there. >> how was that experience?
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>> when i came back and i finally came off active duty and may again you had to kind of go back and do all the things are first to you due to come on active duty, medical check-up, the administrative paperwork taking a lot of the active-duty pay system and getting your 214 paper that shows your services of veteran and whatever terminal leave you had left before your time runs out and you are returned to the resource house. as i said i was back in the ttu for probably three months until i got put in at mag 42 and eventually i became the group chaplain at mag 42. i was there when we decommissioned the mag and it went away as part of the base
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realignment air commission when the naval air station went away and the marines group went away. i eventually became the wing chaplain which is all of the marine corps reserves squadrons and units and it was after that deployment that i got a call -- a friend of mine had gone to djibouti in his description and it rung in my brain that djibouti is a hot and place. in early february 2011 i got an e-mail from the combat command chief goal of able than air force -- naval air force command. i said i'm going to delete the mail so i deleted the e-mail. and again i'm at home.
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now i'm at a church in virginia and i'm at home on my day off and i get a call from naval forces command. i said did you get the e-mail? funny you called i got your mail but i deleted it. he said we want to send unique need to go this year or next year. my church at the time in virginia did not have a interim betwixt and between a full-time pastor. i was associate pastor of the church but we had what we called an intentional interim pastor who was helping the church prepare itself for the new pastor to come. i had a very good relationship and i thought it was probably better for me to go at that time rather than the church to have a new pastor, board and for me to say i'm going to be gone to djibouti for year.
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i said and it was a friend of mine let they talked talk to my wife and let us discuss this. they said can i call you back in an hour or? we talked about it and i have the sense of rightness in setting out to do this. i call them back and i said yes i will go put my name in. he had to write some stuff up and i went back to the church office for the information that he needed to send my name to the chief chaplain's office for final approval. he was early february and i didn't get orders to djibouti until april. i wasn't about to tell my church that i was going to be gone for a year without having the orders in my hand. you learn in the reserves or active duty as well that you don't do anything without
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orders. even when you get orders that can change at the orders finally came through and i got them holy week the week before easter but i'm not going to tell the church on easter that i'm going to be leaving next year so i waited until easter was over and i told them that i would be going back to active duty. this was different than the experience in afghanistan were ahead two weeks notice. this was a long warning order. i learned in february that i would be mobilized since september and have a 3.5 months training period before declining in january. it gave me time to get my affairs in order and let the church no and the let the church make other plans and made the plans that i needed to make with my wife. we kind of generally how the
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process plays out but again it's kind of like joining the navy reserve that i wasn't interested at first but it became common was a good thing that i ultimately said yes. i reported for active duty in september the 12th i think in 2011 at the navy operational support center in richmond virginia and from there my next point was to go to naval station norfolk and we spent three months they are getting ready to go. again we spent a week or so in processing and all the hoops to jump through and at that point the navy and all the services had been using iowa so frequently and they had refined the system in great detail. anybody who is being recalled to
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active duty in the navy now had to go what we called niac navy individual active combat training. there were a group of 50 of us going to djibouti's so i looked for active duty. we were all together there and we went through all the stations, got all the clearances and then we boarded a bus in norfolk and drove to columbia south carolina ford jackson for niac. again that was basically combat savvy, you know the big thing that you had to do to qualify. i got pass on that since i'm a chaplain but also people had to qualify on either the m-16 of the 9-mm. we did all kinds of stuff.
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nbc training nuclear biological chemical training, map reading, convoy operations. one of the interesting things at that point in time i had been in with the marines 13 or 14 years. marine aviation. i had been with the wing and the logistics group than the artillery group. i had a pretty well-rounded combat resume short of fighting but we did some training there that i found really incredible. there have been a lot of rollovers in iraq. they would put us in a humvee and they have the ability to roll it over so you are upside down and you had to get yourself unstrapped without bumping your head on the ceiling.
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that went fairly smoothly and then we did that in the larger personnel carrier as well. that had been quite an issue in iraq and there have been some deaths when people world over in a canal and drowned because they couldn't get out. >> how did you end up in kenya? >> domitian in djibouti is very unique. in djibouti they describe it as 3-d, defense, diplomacy and development. djibouti is in sahara in africa and northern africa bright near the red sea and i'm forgetting the other body of water. it's right there with the red sea comes together with the indian ocean.
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18 miles across the body of water there was the straight. somalia is contiguous with djibouti and ethiopia continued -- contiguous with djibouti and the u.s. is leasing land from the country of djibouti. it's an old french foreign legion camp that's really been built up. i want to say in 2012 that was the 10th year of the presence in djibouti. initially it had been off station in the indian ocean before the navy came ashore with the marines and then they started leasing this place. the whole purpose there, somalia was a failed state. there was a lot of unrest in east africa. ethiopia had been in several wars in the 70s and 80s and so our purpose there was one to
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protect the free passage of ships around that part of the indian ocean and that's where a lot of piracy was taking place. that was one of the goals and another goal was to try to help all of those countries that were contiguous to somalia. most of them are allies. ethiopia, kenya, uganda, to be more effective in securing their own borders so that the group in somalia in the al-shabaab they had been reading the country so to speak, basically human trafficking, drug trafficking, weapons trafficking to generate income and to do their illicit
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activities. and so you know we tried to help with our allies better secure their borders so that they would become -- would not become a failed state and the terrors in particular in al-shabaab did not spread any further. many people had fled somalia and come into the northeast corner of kenya the world's largest refugee camp. they were just trying to help you now work with our allies to stabilize that part of africa. so we were sharing best practices with their allies. we were doing development projects to help people. well drilling, animal vaccinations, trying to hault the spread of malaria through net distribution, educational things. any kind of significant need.
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our ammo was project with a purpose for the things that we were doing and we had the personnel in each of those countries. >> and you mean the military. and i guess that could be military or partisan alec could be a sid personnel but it was under the guidance of the american embassy which often communicated with the host nation to make sure that we were addressing the needs and the needs that were priorities to them. so it's a really unique kind of mission that goes on there. the military talks in terms of operations exercises that 70s, operations being combat related come activities being military related and training. ..
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>> you have an experience when or for your next assignment. >> will my predecessor, the chaplains that preceded me that the task force one in africa, they had a done the book of their energy and effort in public called military to military engagement. and also trying to enlist the aid of civilian religious leaders to use their influence for peace and stability rather than things that would would deflate somite the rabbi interacting with a muslim cleric.
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and he had spent a lot of energy and time and effort particularly in ethiopia trying to persuade leaders there to bring their influence to bear on ethiopian military to develop the chaplain corps. ethiopia has a very battle hard military. they don't have a chaplain corps. i learned later on the part of that lease in the political part of it is that the orthodox church in ethiopia is a very powerful and influential and the military does not want to create a so-called into the military system for the orthodox church to build influence in that area. >> it is all about politics. gerald: it is all about politics we had one meeting with basically kind of national council of churches person in ethiopia. and another person to talk about that and then i realize, this is probably not going to go anywhere quick. my commander, the admiral, he kind of pulled me back from
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doing the mill - mill and we: in the military to civilian engagement. in my predecessor had been very tenacious and he did things in uganda and kenya. but he had not been a key player with u.s. and u.s. after, the combatant command, higher headquarters for anything that happens on the hunton at half africa. there chaplain, the ektachrome chaplain at phone with animal once the christmas holiday before he got there in january. he really kinda let him know that he was unhappy with the lack my predecessor in the team player. so, anyway the admiral company back in. my predecessor had thought that i would do a lot of military civilian engagement. and only did one read the
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admiral had redirected me to work closely with africa and induce a military to military engagement in the first thing he suggested i tackle consider working on was south sudan. so i communicated with a chaplain in african and he was an air force colonel and i was navy capt. so he made a trip to djibouti shortly after another i think the size me up and i was determined that i was going to be a good team player with african. we headed off well we did amazing engagements and kenya has over hundred and very will develop chaplain probably the best of all the countries in africa and it's interesting, the u.s. is that you provide for your own as a chaplain in the
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baptist and protestant i can take and you facilitate for others i can't later mass for catholic or a service for the jews but i can make sure there's someone who can that they have a place in the time the materials they need to do that. you provide for you and you facilitate further you care for all. and to the highest command. so does not matter, maybe i am the baptist chaplain with the marine corp. squadron but it is my responsibility to make sure the catholic and the jews and muslims and seventh had been ten methodist and whoever, that there right to practice their faith and they have the freedom and wherewithal to do that. likewise to ensure the people who have no faith, they're not bugged by those of us who do. but the kenya models very
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different. the canyons have a protestant community the chief of chaplain. and it prop the protestant chaplain ava catholic a community in a catholic chief and chaplains and have a muslim a community with muslim chaplains muslim chief. chaplain we have three genes of chaplains in the canyon military and each of them relates fully to their faith tradition criticism argument kind of model that hours. so we did some military to military engagements with kenya. and we went to rop and we spent some time with each of their chiefs and chaplains we talked about different things that we did training this net and the other we made plans for the canyons to come to many a and judy of the week with us in
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seeing how we do, and the ministry in camp and how we work together even though we were from different faith traditions. likewise i had contracted the africa chaplain indicating my bosses interest and are doing something incident so he set up an opportunity for us to go and meet with a chaplain in south sudan which at that point in time, south sudan was left, just formed the year before. we flew into juba and met with her chaplains and it kind of reminded me of maybe what it was like her chaplains during the civil war read these were clergy people and people of faith and deacons another way to adjust joined their fellow church members and that long fight for or against the capitol and
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this was kind of a push work. they went out into the bush with the people to minister to their spiritual need. so they had a strong presence not well organized chaplain corps and now the south sudan had been recognized and the home country, now military was credited transition and going from a war footing to heavily operating and functioning in a peacetime setting. and lots of internal conflict and struggles in south sudan. the military at that point in time, just beginning to transition, we know nothing but fighting her neighbors to the north and so how do we begin to carry out our functions as a military dealer police chaplains have recognition to begin to formalize their core. in south sudan.
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>> so with the local people in our efforts to pretty. >> absolutely in addition to that, there was a camp chapel staff the did nothing but minister to command religious of the 5000 people. and that was jewish, advent, protestant, and church protestant and nonchurch protestant and catholic and very vigorous command and they had three chaplains and three or piece in my office religious affairs is responsible for the religious support oliver people who are in the country outside of djibouti and also the military to military engagements with the other chaplain so we had very distinct kind response abilities there.
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by lt. col. in chaplain and had maybe chief and i had an air force master sergeant number four people in her staff and we were responsible for the support of all of the people downrange as well as the military to military engagement. and we engage with that can instantly south and we engaged with the islands, chaplain corps one and we got an invitation. to come and spend time with her chaplain. as a catholic deacon and they are very catholic. there catholic islands there only chaplain is catholic and we spent a week with him and we met with senior officials. the military to talk about how they needed to begin to plan bring on another chaplain and that sort of thing.
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>> now when you left that assignments, did you stay in the reserves. gerald: i did and it was interesting, i told that i felt comfortable leaving my church during the interim. and it this interim lookout for me. when i get to djibouti, i get an e-mail saying that the church is going to vote to eliminate my position. and so when i get back on the church would give me year to make the transition. so they give me years, south to reengage that i had to disengage. i was very troubling and i certainly didn't see that coming up at the church might reconfigure my job description. i never imagined they would eliminate my position. that was 2013 pretty sees me,
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those 2012. i had to djibouti january 3rd of 2012. i was there for a year actually 12 and a half months. and i had planned to retire when i got back from djibouti. within learning the job was going to be eliminated, maybe i should try to do one more bullet in reserves because he can't find something in a years time. so put in for another and it didn't get it. and i am retired now they kept that is kind of interpreted. >> will you had an amazing experience. into quite a few things over the years. i got an educated today that i've never heard before. you had an incredible life military. for reservist to be able to get in interact with chaplains from other countries and trying to assure that and compare models.
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and trying to learn from one another, so we had all the great ideas. the canyons are but to learn from them. it was pretty amazing stuff and to coordinate that the embassy grade anytime we went into the countries and get permission and we always went by the embassy because we had militant personnel embedded on the staff. it was an amazing experience. almost filled my passport. twelve and a half months; to give roger a chance to ask any questions they may have meant anything that they might have they want to hear about that they didn't care about. any questions. sue and how are we doing timewise pretty. >> an hour and a half. we have long batteries pretty
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give any questions roger. [inaudible]. >> i do have one question to reveal things that you are permitted to rebuild you did mention it the most you had you with your relationship with her other contact related or was hands out in terms of how matter just military lifestyle with others. and things that might be helpful with pretty. gerald: the majority of issues, where the relationships and sometimes with those loved ones back home and sometimes with colleagues. when i was in djibouti, we did have a cb take his life there on camp. i think it related to a
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relationship that went bad, with a woman he was dating. the chaplain command and was a young lt. and i kind of consulted with him on how to plan a memorial service which he didn't break did very well. i would say, it wasn't posttraumatic stress or anything in a country with a being aviation units in afghanistan, nor disclose as combat troops would be so characterized mostly counseling related to relationships whether they work familial or romantic or work-related. this tended to be the kinds of issues that were most frequent.
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mike deputy are one of my deputies in djibouti, he was cal's machine. counseling is not my forte so i don't always gravitate toward it. but i bet he did pretty in six months he was there. i bet he did 200. anybody wanted to speak to chaplain, he was there, i pointed them toward him. i want to give you a chance to do two things pretty one is there any thing else that you would like to get on camera, pictures or anything that you have. gerald: one of the interesting experiences that i had in djibouti, is that the american a busy undeveloped program of volunteers from the camp teaching and helping to teach english there were a lot of english schools in djibouti including the most humble schools that you can imagine that these were like mom-and-pop kind of run operations where you
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are in a kind of a humble, of tannin wooden rickety benches and the students come at night and so they work for traditional school they learn english volunteers in the catholic we come in they would dialogue with them. then maybe we would say it but would you like to talk about tonight and they would say let's talk about if it is a true lover not read these were 1415 and up to 21 -year-old pretty we would write these things on the board and they will tell you, honey know if it is true love or not. then they would talk and we would give them feedback about grammar and pronunciation and then usually toward the end, they would say what is true love again. so we would maybe have a chance to share. so i did that, i've always loved volunteering so i was eager to join that and i think i did 183
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hours of volunteering. but is really remarkable for these young people, djibouti is a very poor country. and there's about a think 60 percent unemployment in the city which is the big time in the country djibouti. these were young adults, young people who spoke their native tongue but most were firm's in terms of their tribal background speak french because 1977 djibouti was a french colony they spoke some, 94 percent muslim and here they're trying to learn english in hopes that they can maybe get a job on camp summer. that's very inspirational i think some more than happy to come at the end of the day and dialogue with young people are
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trying to learn english pretty does the thought was amazing experience and very much loved that in respect my church in virginia and actually bought paper english dictionary so that we could give them out. i may have a picture some i will say that i brought a couple that when i first went to church here in atlanta, and right back home once a week and just kind of let them know what i was feeling afraid the church secretary had compiled all of these notebook given to me back. but this was my way to keep up the folks back home. so when i went to djibouti, i decided to have my jubilee journal. and so i would write every week and i would tell people here's what is happening in my jubilee journal and everything from the
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quarters i lived in two from the trees to rummaging for food and all of that stuff in these four ways that i kind of maintain contact with the folks. >> they would've never known about it. gerald: i've never heard of jubilee until just couple of years ago and i certainly didn't know that was the only during location that we have on the continent of africa. last year i followed president obama renew the lease with the country of djibouti for another ten years. we can't actually besides the only airport in djibouti city, and so we have utilization of the airstrip, the only natural resources if any value in djibouti is department work pretty for example, almost all of the imported food comes to ethiopia comes to djibouti and
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by truck then over to ethiopia and ethiopia has no access otherwise to import things. so you got it reporter deep water port their ships can come in they come in every day, american ships come in periodically read you got things happening in somalia, 8 miles from djibouti coming up things are happening given, they were 18 miles across the water. from djibouti and you have the occasional things that happen in kenya. nelson bob still very upset in the canyons and 2011 when in two somalia to try to defeat him so there would be the refugees into kenya. >> i want to give you a chance to say something case there's anything that you left out.
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and i surf or just under 26 years. it never planned to do it and was not part of my long-range goals after the seminary. as an influence of a friend that persuaded me i certainly never planned to go to djibouti but i haven't gotten that call, and it was amazing way for me to basically and my navy career and i did come back and serve 14 months in washington at the navy yard. it's a pretty amazing experience to be able to do military to military to civilian as well as the traditional religious support to our troops. it was 34 when i joined it and i served to age 16 or retired the monthly turn 60 am so thankful that god helped me to kind of catch a vision of that and to get religious support to her are america's sons and daughters as well. >> even experience in the world
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the very few people have between your african experience and middle eastern experience. he came from a pretty tough upbringing when your mom died then you volunteered for the military and served and often overseas twice which a lot of people now other people do predict in real credit for you. just fighting a war that you went to help afghans and help people down in kenya countries around kenya how the whole time serving your mission over there. christian chaplain. you should be very proud of what you have done and we all want to thank you for coming here today telling your story, thank you for your service. gerald: thank you and thank you for giving m program guide or
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a >> i am the director of outreach and. [inaudible]. either in person or online thank you for joining us so for those who are new here were happy to have you join us. some people here who are new, and where national research of american history. [inaudible]. and the records united states and portions of canada for the 20th century. and anything and everything


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