MASCOUTAH, Ill. – As COVID-19 continues to affect almost every aspect of daily life, incorporating specific ways to build resiliency has never been more important and it’s the main focus Maj. Jeffrey Hicks, the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s new Chaplain, wants to bring to the organization.
“My focus and passion remains primarily on meeting spiritual needs and impacting resiliency, relationships and morale in DoD personnel and families,” said Hicks.
Hicks has already put a plan into action for building upon the strong program started by his predecessor, Lt. Col. Mark Sedwick, and previous SDDC chaplains.
“I’m currently conducting daily prayer sessions, bible studies and have begun sending out a weekly, spiritual resiliency message,” he said. “I have already begun making rounds through SDDC introducing myself. I also support the Brigades and Battalions virtually and will travel when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.”
Religious support is essential to mission success, and building and sustaining unit readiness. However, with much of the workforce teleworking as part of SDDC’s COVID-oriented protective posture, providing that support has given Hicks a new challenge.
Hicks comes to SDDC from the 29th Infantry Division at Fort Belvoir, VA, where he served as the Family Life, Assistant and Command Chaplain. He says his transition to SDDC during the pandemic affords him the initiative to use a digital environment to reach employees and provide resources to build mental and emotional resiliency so they can focus on the mission.
“Much of the ministry is currently being conducted virtually with seamless impact in our 75% telework, 25% in-office environment,” he said. “We are all finding effective means of giving and receiving ministry, and I remain proactively engaged in ministry within the context of our new environment.”
Hicks is not a stranger to new environments. He earned his Bachelors of Science degree from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and found his passion for ministry early in life.
“After I graduated college in 1991, I served as a student pastor, youth pastor and in church camp ministry,” he said. “I also worked in quality control at a local factory in the oil, coal and lumber business. Both of those jobs coming out of college contributed significantly and positively reaffirmed my affinity and calling in the ministry as church pastor and chaplain.”
He began his military career in the Army National Guard in 2004 and said he felt his calling to the Army chaplaincy shortly after 9/11.
“During September 11th, I was already serving in ministry, but was propelled to serve my country in ministry to DOD personnel,” Hicks explained. “God gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of serving God, Country and as an Army Chaplain in a second career. My family has been very supportive, grounded and contributed significantly throughput my service as a chaplain.”
Since then, Hicks continued to serve in various locations including the Middle East, Balkans and Louisiana, before accepting his position at SDDC.
Sedwick said he recommended Hicks because of his expertise.
“He has the unique, God-given combination of a pastor's heart and strong staff officer skills.” Sedwick continued, “I have confidence that Chaplain Hicks will take religious support at SDDC to a higher level during his tour of duty.”
Hicks hopes to not only help others strengthen their resolve, but to also set the example of resiliency. To help accomplish this, he holds a virtual prayer session and Bible study session for the SDDC workforce daily.
“Life is filled with curves, sharp turns, sudden starts and stops, both uphill and downhill grades and often much waiting,” he said. “If you travel the road, you know the bumps, yet, at times, we may find ourselves charting a course we have not yet traveled.”