By Steven Hoover, USACHCSMarch 3, 2017
FORT JACKSON -- Chaplain (Col.) Jeffrey D. Hawkins became the 42nd commandant of the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School, during a ceremony in the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center auditorium, here March 3.
Initially an enlisted Green Beret, with 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), then at Fort Devens, Mass., for the past 24 years he has been an Army Chaplain. Before coming to USACHCS, his most recent assignment was as the Command Chaplain, United States Army Central (USARCENT), headquartered at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.
Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Paul K. Hurley, U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains, hosted the ceremony. Fort Jackson Commanding General, (Maj. Gen.) John "Pete" Johnson, and Deputy Chief of Chaplains, (Brig. Gen.) Thomas Solhjem were also in attendance.
"This (Change of Commandant ceremony) is a time for us to reflect on, and to be reminded of, the tremendous responsibility that we've been given, that we've been invited to partake in, to serve the Army as UMT's (Unit Ministry Teams)," Hurley said, speaking primarily to the chaplains and chaplain assistants. "That transfer is about you … each one of us … to be reminded of the tremendous opportunity that we've been given to serve this Army … to serve these brave men and women, and their families, who give themselves not just partly, but give themselves wholly. And, that is what we're called for."
Outgoing commandant, Chaplain (Col.) Peter R. Sniffin, heads to Carlisle Barracks, Pa., to be the Professor of Ethics and Senior Chaplain for the U.S. Army War College. Sniffin, who had been commandant since May 2015, was awarded the Legion of Merit prior to the ceremony. His wife, Rose Marie, received the Outstanding Civilian Service Award.
"USACHCS, I am no longer your commandant," Sniffin said, "but, I will forever be grateful that I was. It was my dream to lead this organization. And, I am just so glad that dream came true. Team USACHCS, you are a dream team."
Following a listing of achievements accomplished during his tenure, Sniffin, a fan of the Washington Redskins, said, after comparing USACHCS to great sport teams throughout history, that "USACHCS is the New England Patriots of religious support."
When it was his turn at the podium, Hawkins thanked everyone for attending and recognized Sniffin for his "wisdom and collegiality" during their time together and transition.
He went on to say, "To the USACHCS team, I owe you my best every day, in every way … and I will expect the same from you … because there is no higher calling, than serving both God and country. What an exciting turning of the page in the continuing story of the USACHCS mission that is larger than us all."
Hawkins has served in a wide variety of assignments, to include Battalion Chaplain of the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment and 536th Engineers (Combat) (Heavy), in Panama, from 1993-1995. He then served as the Assistant Group Chaplain to 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), at Ft. Lewis, Wash., from 1995-1998. Following that assignment, he was the Battalion Chaplain to the 307th Engineers, 82nd Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg, N.C., from 1998-2001.
After completing a Master's Degree in Community Counseling, in conjunction with the Chaplaincy's Family Life Training Program, he attended the Command and General Staff Officers Course, at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan. He then served as the Family Life Chaplain for Ft. Benning, Ga., from 2003-2006.
He led as the Brigade Chaplain for the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg and the unit's deployment during the "surge" in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Subsequently, in 2008 and 2009, Hawkins served as Deputy Command Chaplain for Warrior and Family Sustainment with the Joint Special Operations Command, also at Ft. Bragg.
In January 2010, he arrived in Seoul, Republic of Korea, to be the Garrison Chaplain for U.S. Army Garrison -- Yongsan. In 2012, he was assigned as the Division Chaplain for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), at Fort Campbell, Ky. Following deployment to Afghanistan as the Command Chaplain for Combined Joint Task Force -- 101 and a year at the U.S. Army War College, Hawkins reported to Shaw, with duty across the Middle East as the Command Chaplain for U.S. Army Central and as the Command Chaplain for Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve.
His combat deployments include Operation Iraqi Freedom as an Airborne Brigade Combat Team Chaplain, Operation Enduring Freedom as Special Operations Task Force Chaplain as a Division Chaplain, and most recently, Operation Inherent Resolve, as the Command Chaplain.
This spring, Chaplain Hawkins will complete his Doctor of Ministry degree at Erskine Theological Seminary, in Due West, S.C. He also holds master's degrees from the United States Army War College, at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., Columbus State University, in Columbus, Ga., and The Nazarene Theological Seminary, in Kansas City, Mo. His undergraduate degree is from the University of South Florida, in Tampa, Fla.
Chaplain Hawkins' awards and decorations include: the Legion of Merit (1 oak leaf cluster), the Bronze Star (1 oak leaf cluster), the Special Forces Tab, the Master Parachutist Badge, the Air Assault Badge, and the Combat Action Badge.
Ordained as a Christian Minister by The Church of the Nazarene, Hawkins said his greatest joy remains delivering hope and help to Soldiers and their Families, while loving and leading Unit Ministry Teams of exceptional character, competence, and connection for "God and Country."
He and his wife of 34 years, Lori, have two married children and a grandchild.
The U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School, established almost 100 years ago, serves as the U.S. Army Chief of Chaplain's institutional training base for Army Chaplains and Chaplain Assistants. The mission is to train Unit Ministry Teams -- Chaplains and Chaplain Assistants -- in safeguarding free exercise of religion for all Service Members and their Families, as well as the provision of religious support and religious accommodation.