FORT SILL, Oklahoma (July 30, 2020) -- Chaplain (Capt.) Jae Chang was associate pastor of a church in Columbus, Georgia, for 13 years before he saw the light and joined the Army.Now he says it’s far more fulfilling to be around Soldiers and go wherever they go than it was being a man of the cloth in civilian life.What’s more, he confides, he’s got the best job in the Army.He was born in South Korea, and his father, who’d been a sergeant in the Republic of Korea’s army, kept telling him he ought to go into the military right after high school. But it wasn’t until the post chaplain at Fort Benning visited Chang’s church and encouraged him to take the plunge that he took heed.Because the church was right outside Fort Benning’s main gate, the congregation had a lot of military families, and he had seen these young adults struggling and in need of guidance. The post chaplain noticed Chang stepping in to fill the gap, and he saw it as God’s way of preparing Chang for a higher purpose in life.“I was like, ‘Well, I don’t know, I never thought about it.’ But, as I was working with military families more and more, it clicked in my mind that maybe God is lifting a burden in my heart for the military family and maybe God is calling me to Army chaplaincy,” Chang realized.So he applied and was accepted. Although the recruiter said the active Army had no slots available for chaplains at that time and he might have to go into the reserve component, an opening came up and Chang got in. He was commissioned through Benning’s Officer Candidate School in September 2010.The captain said he came to the United States when he was 17 years old. He lived on the west side of Chicago and attended school there.He always wanted to be a teacher and teach people how to better their lives. People in his home church and the community gave him encouragement, but he had doubts. In high school he was struggling with his identity because there were so few Asians in his community and sometimes he had to endure outright hostility from people who told him “go back to your country” and things like that.But at the same time other people were telling him to make the right choices. So he went to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. His mentors there convinced him to follow the call and become a minister, a teacher, and a shepherd leading people to God’s kingdom.After he finished school, he married Monica, his wife of 22 years. He was working for his own church and networked with other churches in the area. He got together with a group of friends to rent a 15-passenger van and travel around the U.S. to help various churches conduct Vacation Bible Schools, summer children’s camps, and summer retreats.One of these events was in Columbus, Georgia. The group built a relationship with the pastor there, and later on, when the associate pastor had to go back to Korea, the pastor called Chang and invited him to take the job. Chang had just finished school and gotten married, so the offer came at an opportune time.What did he think once he got into the Army?“It was very different. My initial thought was, I wanted to be where the Soldiers were at. That was my goal: I want to go wherever they go to, whether it was a deployment, the community, wherever they serve, I want to be with them,” Chang said.The Army considers its chaplains noncombatants and doesn’t let them carry a weapon, which is fine with Chang. He has a chaplain’s assistant who does pack heat and goes along to protect him.Chang’s first assignment was with a Stryker infantry unit at Fort Bliss, Texas, and he went with the Soldiers to the field all the time.“We deployed with them. It was very interesting,” he recalled.In the Chaplain Basic Officer Leader Course he was taught not to compromise when it came to protecting freedom of religion. Chang said his head was pumped up with thoughts of taking care of Soldiers and conducting religious services.When his unit went to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, to get ready for a deployment, he was presented a tent that he presumed would serve as a chapel where he could have services and provide counseling.