OTF Soldier Story for March 2, 2009 - Capt. Seth George
Current Unit: 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment
Current Position: Battalion Chaplain
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Fort Lewis, Wash.
Hometown: Murphysboro, Ill.
Years of Service: 11 (6 on Active Duty and 5 with the Army Reserve)
When most Soldiers prepare for a patrol in Iraq they methodically load and check their weapons just as reflexively as they might tie a bootlace or tighten their helmet's chinstrap. Capt. Seth George's daily preparation while deployed was markedly different in one particular way: his equipment never included a gun. During his tour of duty as a chaplain, he traveled with infantry units through Iraqi cities and along dangerous routes, but remained focused on a mission unlike that of the Soldiers with which he served.
While in Baghdad in 2007, Capt. George says he faced some of the most difficult experiences of his life. During the deployment, his battalion lost many Soldiers, and he worked, often through the night, to provide spiritual guidance and emotional support to the men and women around him struggling to process the realities they faced. To help them manage grief, Capt. George, a Presbyterian, often built his ministries around a theme of turning hardship into strength.
When Capt. George decided more than a decade ago to become an Army chaplain, he understood that he would be putting his seminary degree to a much different use than he otherwise would have as a civilian pastor. Ultimately, he was motivated by a desire to be there for Soldiers who, while facing extraordinary challenges like those of a deployment, would find themselves relying on their faith like never before.
Throughout his career and over the course of three deployments, Capt. George says he has worked with Soldiers ranging from the devout to those who have never before attended a church service. The support he offers to each Soldier is as unique as the man or woman he counsels. At times, he finds himself delving into theological complexities to help a religious Soldier who is struggling with his beliefs in the face of war. In other instances, Capt. George begins talking with a Soldier just as a friend and later finds that Soldier seeking out his bible study sessions.
Now stationed at Fort Lewis, Capt. George continues to support Soldiers and faces new challenges as a battalion chaplain. He works closely with service members and their families, and has found that it is sometimes the homecoming timeframe during which his help is most needed. Within 100 days of a unit's return, Capt. George finds an increase in his counseling load as families seek his guidance during the difficult period of transition. Capt. George works, from a spiritual perspective, to help these families through everything from marital problems to disciplinary issues with children, referring them to available services on post as applicable.