Higher calling: Family life chaplain called to heal, offer guidance
February 27, 2014
(Editor's note: This is part of a continuing series looking at different jobs and the people who get them done at Fort Rucker. Readers who have ideas for jobs or people to be highlighted in the series can send an email to jhughes 'at' armyflier.com for the staff to consider.)
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (February 27, 2014) -- Eight years ago, Chaplain (Capt.) Troy Allan, Fort Rucker Family Life Chaplain, reported for his first day of his new job as an Army chaplain, and since he answered that higher calling to help others, he has spent it doing nothing less.
Called to the Lord at a young age, Allan began teaching music to reach out to others. That soon turned into a path of being an Army bandsman, then a chaplain. He has worked in hospital wards with Soldiers from wars past and overseas with today's Soldiers battling internal demons.
But now, as a garrison chaplain, he says he still feels like he is in the heat of battle and a necessary part of the Army machine.
"Growing up, I always wanted to be a doctor," he said, joking that that didn't work out too well. "But it seemed I always wanted to help people and it was something that I was good at, even young. But I care for people and it is funny how God directs our paths."
Focused on Family, grief, marriage and crisis counseling, Allan sees six to eight Families on a weekly basis, and four to five individuals a week. He also gives two briefings a week around post where he teaches organizations, leadership and management how to help Soldiers handle different types of crisis.
Allan said God directed his path towards clinical care and that he loves it despite its dangers. Compassion fatigue is the chaplain's worst enemy, but he fights it off every day.
"Chaplains can get overwhelmed and burdened by the difficulties of the world," he said. "At first, I was very aware of the things that I would say to my clients and how much of an impact it might have on their life. And it was stressful sometimes thinking that I had to find the perfect words to help them. Now that I understand the process a little better, it's not so bad."
Allan said that self care is what keeps him mentally and emotionally fit. He likes to spend his free time fishing and doing other outdoor activities with his Family to fight off the sadness that sometimes can weigh him down.
"I have to take care of myself and my own Family in order to take care of others," he said. "If I am really stressed or a story has made me feel (upset in any way), I make sure that it is gone before I go home. I cannot let the burden of others completely burden me."
His ministry provides hope and healing for those who are distraught in any way, and although he works on the mental aspects of things, he said he is very much aware of the spiritual side of things as well.
"That is the big difference between, say, myself and a mental health counselor. We step into the spiritual realm, where others may not feel comfortable going," he said. "The things I have seen and been a part of, I really wouldn't want everybody to be a part of that. But there are so many lessons learned and so many people's lives changed."
It is really hard to concentrate on jobs, assignments and missions when there is a problem at home, said Allan. Even though Soldiering is these men and women's lives, when something is amiss at home it takes away from what they are supposed to be doing on the job.
"I have seen a lot of broken Families here on post. They have to find a way to heal that brokenness so they can give back to society. That's where I can come in and help, with the healing," he said. "If our Family systems are broken, it is very difficult to work in other systems. It only takes a brief lapse of attention that can cause serious problems in the field."
He said that when there is a machine with a broken cog, the machine will not work no matter how small the cog, and the same goes for Soldiers and their Families.
"The better I can heal a Soldier the better off that Soldier will be in the long run. They will be whole -- completely healthy and ready to take on anything the Army throws at them," he said. "Trying to understand pain and suffering is sometimes difficult, especially when I know God loves all of his children, but it is an honor to serve in this capacity."
Allan said he loves seeing people's lives changed, and although he has seen his clients hit rock bottom and below, when they come back to receive more care and he can see a change, it is both beautiful and rewarding.
"There are times when it is difficult because I see so much pain and grief and sadness. But I come back every day because I know I can help," he said.
The Fort Rucker Spiritual Life Center and its chaplains offer many services from private sessions to large classes on a range of services including grief counseling, addiction and anger management. To begin the steps of healing, call 255-3946.