Reserve Chaplain bridges gap during UFG
September 6, 2011
CAMP WALKER, DAEGU, Republic of Korea -- Army Chaplains spend their days offering advice to Soldiers and are the spiritual advisors for commanders; during Ulchi Freedom Guardian one Reserve chaplain took on a much different role.
When the commanding general of the 200th Military Police Command needed to communicate his thoughts and intent with his Republic of Korea counterparts, he looked toward Chaplain (Capt.) Barnabas Kim.
Korean-born Kim, now a Chandler, Ariz. resident, served as a linguist for the command and Maj. Gen. Sanford Holman's visits to the ROK's 2nd Operation Command headquarters.
A member of the 11th Military Police Brigade, based at Los Alamitos, Calif., Kim stayed busy with his traditional role as a chaplain for the command, but any remaining time was dedicated to other duties as the command linguist.
"Chaplain Kim was an enormously valuable asset to the command and to our Soldiers during this exercise," Holman said. "The knowledge he shared about the Korean culture and his experience as a former member of the ROK Army was invaluable to me and my staff. His personal efforts enhanced our experience here in Korea, had a direct mission impact, and allowed our Soldiers to better understand their Korean counterparts."
Born in Daegu, Republic of Korea, Kim said his parents didn't register his birth until a year after the birth.
"Half of all babies died in their first year because Korea was a seriously poor country," he said. "So usually, parents registered their babies after the first full year -- if the baby survived."
Kim said it was nice to see how things have changed since his birth in Daegu, which is the fourth largest city.
After completing college in Daegu, including ROTC, Kim became an armor officer in the ROK Army and served as a platoon leader for an obligatory two years, after which he attended seminary school in Seoul.
"I ministered to churches in Daegu for 10 years before I left Korea," said Kim. "I became a missionary in 1996. I traveled to 70 different countries as a missionary with a missionary ship -- my family and I lived onboard the ship for three years."
In early 2009, Kim joined the Army Reserve. "I was concerned about Soldiers' spiritual fitness as part of their welfare," he said.
During UFG, Kim said he recognized that he could serve as a chaplain and a linguist.
"I realized that it is very important," he said. "I think a chaplain should be willing to do anything for Soldiers and for our mission -- except carrying weapons."
During the two-week annual training, Kim said he spent much of his time as a linguist and liaison between the U.S. and Korean service members.
"I'm so glad to be part of this mission as a facilitator between the U.S. Army and Korean Army, since I was also a Korean Army officer 25 years ago," he said. "My experience as a Korean Army officer helped this mission very much, not only my army experience but also the relationship with the Korean officers here."
Kim said many officers graduated from the military academy the same year as Kim. "They are all so happy to meet me," he said.
Although he didn't meet anyone he actually knew from his time in service, he said Korean culture associates camaraderie among those born in the same year, or who graduated the same year.
"They were so willing to help me with anything I asked them," he said. "Since they all have important positions here, it was so good for my mission."
Back home in Arizona, Kim is a missionary, missionary trainer and consultant. With his supporters and partners, Kim started up a new mission organization and now teaches missiology to nearly a half-million missionaries around the world.
"I still travel a lot to the different mission fields -- Africa, Middle East, the former Soviet states, and Asian countries," he said. "I'm going to visit Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam to teach missionaries there."
Whether as an interpreter, chaplain or missionary, Kim said his focus will always be helping people and Soldiers who reach out for help.
As Kim worked long hours with the 200th MPC staff, Holman said that he brought more than his language skills to the exercise.
"Having a former ROK Army leader on my staff was great. It allowed me to take advantage of his ability to give me professional and cultural insights about our Korean military partners and their points of reference. This allowed me to be more efficient and effective in communicating my thoughts to our counterparts across the table," Holman said.