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Chaplain (Capt.) Patricia Nichols, 4th Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, is the recipient of the Military Chaplains Association's 2013 Distinguished Service Award.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- A TRADOC chaplain is the recipient of the Military Chaplains Association's 2013 Distinguished Service Award.

Chaplain (Capt.) Patricia Nichols, 4th Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, is this year's selection for the award, which recognizes the excellence of chaplains in mid-career. Nichols has been an Army chaplain for five years, but has a long history with the military.

"I was a spouse for 12 years before I was a chaplain," she said. "My dad was a pastor, and grew up in Germany. I've been around Soldiers my whole life. I've always been around the military, and then I married a Soldier."

At the time, her husband was an enlisted man, but he soon left the Army to enroll in seminary school. It was a decision that would have long-term impact on both their lives, especially after he returned to the Army as a chaplain. Her husband, Maj. Jimmy Nichols, is currently assigned to the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School.

"He'd tell me about his job and I thought it was great, but I never thought about it for me," she said. "I taught high school English for several years. When I had my third son, I decided to stay home for seven years before going back to seminary."

When her husband was deployed to Afghanistan before the start of the war in Iraq, though, it gave her a new perspective on life.

"It was a difficult time for me," she said. "I've always been very independent. But, I was the chaplain's wife, so people would come to me with their problems. And I didn't really talk to anyone else about what I was going through."

That was when she decided on a change in both lifestyle and career.

"God used that time to resurrect something that he placed in my heart when I was very young," she said. "I absolutely love it, because I love people. This particular job allows me to interact with Soldiers every day. For a Soldier, the chaplain is a safe place because we have complete confidentiality. It's an honor to serve with people like them."

Chaplains perform and provide religious services, but also advise command on moral and ethical issues that could impact mission readiness, she said.

Awards are presented to chaplains in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Veterans Affairs and Civil Air Patrol chaplains. Nominations are forwarded to MCA by the five constituent chief chaplains, and the awards are presented annually during the MCA National Institute.

Page last updated Thu March 28th, 2013 at 00:00