By Mr. Eric Kowal (Picatinny)January 9, 2014
Established by the Second Continental Congress in 1775, the Army Chaplaincy predates the Declaration of Independence and is both the largest and oldest military chaplaincy in the world. More than 25,000 chaplains have served in 36 wars and 242 major combat engagements.
Army chaplains have the responsibility of caring for the spiritual well-being of Soldiers and their families. An Army chaplain's flock can consist of more than 1,500 people. Here at Picatinny Arsenal, one chaplain cares for more than 5,000 civilian employees and roughly 100 servicemembers and their families.
Chaplain Kwon Pyo arrived at Picatinny in the summer of 2011 and will be departing for his new assignment at Fort Bragg, N.C., in January.
During a recent installation Town Hall in the Lindner Conference Center, Brig. Gen. John J. McGuiness, Picatinny Senior Commander and Program Executive Officer for Ammunition alerted the workforce of the chaplain's pending departure and offering a compliment in saying, "I don't know if I've seen a chaplain more engaged with a civilian community than ours."
Before leaving Pyo offered reflection of his tour here as well as advice for the incoming chaplain.
This was your first assignment where the majority of the workforce is primarily civilian. How does that affect the way you operate? What were some of the challenges you faced in your line of work here at Picatinny?
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank Brig. Gen. McGuiness, Dr. Melendez, my Chaplain Assistants, Staff Sgt. (Gary) Miles and Spc. (Stacey) Lewis, and the Team Picatinny members for their kindness and support for the Chaplain's work for the past two and a half years (July 2011 -- Jan 2014). I feel sad to say goodbye to so many wonderful people in our community. It was my first experience to work for an installation with the majority of the workforce being civilians. Most of the workforce is in cubicles inside buildings with secure locks. It was a big challenge for me to have access to them, interact with them, and get to know them. At first, it felt like they were in a mighty fortress. To be more visible to the workforce, I started to walk everywhere in hot summer days and cold, and rainy days year-around. Soon, people noticed my presence at Picatinny and opened their hearts to me with their issues, joys, and burdens of life. I am grateful for opportunities to be of service for many people in their times of sorrow and pain, and to share their joys and successes. I had a wonderful journey together with the people of Team Picatinny. I will miss you all."
Looking back upon your tenure here what were some of your most cherished memories?
"When I was walking along the road, so many good people stopped and offered me a ride with a sincere concern for my welfare on very hot and cold days. I turned down their kind offers many times a day. It took about six months before people finally gave up on me and stopped offering me a ride (smile)! We just waved at each other. I blessed every one of them as they passed by. Lt. Col. (Jason) Mackay (Picatinny Arsenal Garrison Commander) and some people still stop and offer me a ride. It looks like some people will not quit until I leave Picatinny. Dr. (Gerardo) Melendez adopted me as an honorary member of the ARDEC headquarters. We engaged in many meals, and he taught me little Spanish. 'Dios Te Bendiga, (May God bless you) Dr. Melendez!'"
As you transition to a post in Fort Bragg that is a very highly populated military installation how do you prepare yourself for the change?
"I am very excited about going back to Fort Bragg, 'The Center of the Universe' in the military--full of young, energetic paratroopers. The thought of living among them as their Chaplain/spiritual shepherd thrills me. To be an effective spiritual leader for young troops, I keep my spirit, soul and body fresh and ready to serve anywhere and anytime. I think I am in great shape physically to stay in step with young Soldiers. My gray hair served me very well here in Picatinny with so many gray-haired people (smile). Soon, Fort Bragg young troops will know that I may have snow on the roof top, but my heart is very young and warm!"
What will you take away as lessons learned?
Lt. Col. Pyo - "Love never fails! Every day, we interact with people, and touch so many lives.
Our friendly smiles, kind words, and warm handshakes can make a difference in someone's life. I appreciate Brig. Gen. McGuiness' so many initiatives to improve the quality of life for Team Picatinny. I really like his command philosophy: 'Foster a command climate where everyone is treated with dignity and respect and feels like a valued contributor to our team.' Being the one and only chaplain at Picatinny, it was hard for me to take annual leave. Brig. Gen. McGuiness ordered me to take leave and take care of my family. I was touched by his kind, caring heart. Of course, I was even more motivated to work harder for him. Love never fails!"
My parting word to my beloved Team Picatinny is: Love one another and take care of each other. There is a reason you are here together."
Do you have any advice for the incoming Chaplain?
"The chaplain's three important missions are: 1, caring for the wounded; 2, honoring the dead; 3, nurturing the living. I did my best to accomplish these missions in my unique way and using the best of my talents. Each chaplain brings his unique gifts and talents to accomplish the mission. I have no doubt that Chaplain David Jacob will be a huge blessing to our Picatinny Community. May God bless chaplain Jacob as he serves all the wonderful people of Team Picatinny!"