Pro Deo et Patria
I want to briefly explain my involvement in the South Carolina State Guard so that you can better understand the ministry that the Lord has opened up to me and so that you can get a better idea of the potential impact to the church. I think that you will be very encouraged about the opportunity.
For years I have had an interest in becoming involved with ministry to the military in some manner. The couple of times that I inquired with the Army National Guard about their need for Chaplains I was told that I was too old. I was encouraged to apply to the South Carolina State Guard because they do not have an age limit and they do not normally deploy out of state. Also, the training is not nearly as time consuming or disruptive to one’s life. So, I sent e-mails out to the South Carolina State Guard but to no avail, until this past autumn.
In October, a Chaplain from the South Carolina State Guard contacted me and told me that they were interested in my becoming a Chaplain. After securing permission from our Session and the Second Presbytery of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, my application was approved. In May, Governor Nikki Haley granted me a commission as a Chaplain Captain in the South Carolina State Guard. I will be assigned to the staff of the commanding officer of the Second (Highland) Brigade which covers the counties of the upstate. Like all State Guard members, I will serve as a volunteer without pay.
The South Carolina State Guard’s history dates back to the founding of the original colony when a militia was established to defend citizens from Indian raids and incursions from Spanish militias from Florida. When South Carolina became a state in 1776, the South Carolina State Guard fought for American Independence under the command of such able leaders as Francis Marion, Andrew Pickens, Nathanael Green and Thomas Sumter. Guardsmen were later called to fight for South Carolina during the War with Mexico and again during the War Between the States. During the World Wars, the South Carolina State Guard was tasked with protecting the coast in the event of raids from German Submarines.
The mission of the State Guard in our day is to work with state and local law enforcement and the Army National Guard and the US Army to protect the citizens of South Carolina from natural and man- made disasters (terrorism). The State Guard has an engineering division, a medical division, and a law enforcement division among other units. The State Guard can be called up by the Governor in the event citizens are in danger. Members of the State Guard serve as first responders to state-wide emergencies. They are also called upon on occasion to serve in other capacities such as mountain rescue squads and crowd control and other less serious events. On rare occasions, state governors will support each other by sending State Guard units to assist other states. This was the case when the South Carolina State Guard was deployed to New York City after the 911 attacks and to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
South Carolina Guardsmen wear the same uniform as US Army forces but with insignia designating them as members of the State Guard. They swear the same oath and have the same military structure as the regular Army. On occasion they can become part of the Army National Guard.
Probably the biggest question in the minds of most of our congregation relates to the impact of my service as a Chaplain upon the ministry of Christ Reformed Church. My hope is that serving as a Chaplain will enhance the ministry of the church. As a Chaplain, I will have opportunity to conduct devotions and, perhaps, services of worship. I will counsel with Guardsmen and will be responsible for moral training. I will also have potential access to ministry among local National Guard soldiers and retired veterans. My uniform will open doors. In a sense, to un-churched Guardsmen, I will be their church.
Nevertheless, serving in the State Guard will not be accomplished without sacrifice on my part and on part of the congregation. I will be required to participate in monthly drills which normally occur on Saturdays. All State Guard related expenses come from my own pocket. I will be required to participate in occasional joint operations with other organizations. And, I will be required to participate in occasional training. Most of these events will occur on my own time off, but I will be required to miss a few Sundays. On those days, we will have a guest preacher at the church and the church officers will lead the services of worship.
Many of the Sundays missed will occur during the first few years of my involvement as I will be enrolled in weekend officer’s schools at the McCrady Training Center near Columbia. In 2016, I will participate in Officer’s Basic Training from January to June for one weekend per month (six months total). I will report on Friday afternoon and will be dismissed on Sunday evening during that school. The following year I will likely participate in Officer’s Advanced school with a similar schedule. In addition, there may be other required schools on rare occasions. In the event of an emergency, I may be deployed for a few days with little notice. I will carry a “bug out” bag in my car for just such an event. However, these deployments are very rare. It has been ten years since State Guardsmen were deployed in an emergency.
You can find out more about the South Carolina State Guard by visiting their website at http://www.sg.sc.gov or by viewing the Guard’s FaceBook page. I would also be more than happy to sit down with any church members who have questions about my service in the Guard. I am very grateful to the Church for supporting me in what I am convinced that this is part of God’s calling for my life.
Perhaps all of what I desire to convey on this subject can be summarized by the motto of the United States Army Chaplain Corps – “Pro Deo et Patria” – For God and Country. Like you, I have a passionate love for God. Like you, I have a passionate love for our country and our state. Service as a Chaplain in the South Carolina State Guard provides me with the opportunity to serve both of those loves at once. Your prayers and support for me while I serve as Pastor and Chaplain are very much appreciated.