ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – When new chaplains come into a unit, they always have their work cut out for them. But it was even harder for the fairly new U.S. Army Sustainment Command chaplain as most of his flock was teleworking due to COVID.
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Kevin Niehoff arrived at RIA in June. He is expected to be here for at least a two-year assignment and comes to ASC with over 20 years’ experience as an Army chaplain.
When the federal government went into nearly full-time telework and lockdown in March 2020, Soldiers still departed with new ones coming in. Likewise, there were some changes in the civilian workforce, which made it hard for the ASC personnel to know who’s who in what positions.
His previous assignment was attached to a field branch of the Office of the Chief of Chaplains, at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, where he worked at the newly created operations section as the Future Operations officer for two years.
Niehoff also served two tours in Iraq as the battalion chaplain for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky. During his first tour, he ministered to the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team from September 2005 to August 2006, and from October 2007 to November 2008 with the 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
So, what are the duties as a chaplain at ASC?
“My duties here are to provide religious support to ASC and the garrison due to ASC being the senior mission command,” Niehoff said of his expanded responsibilities.
“Religious support involves many things, including counseling, ceremonial support (invocations), programs such as marriage retreats, pastoral visits, and grief support, as well as integrating within the staff,” he explained.
“My number one duty is definitely being present and available as needs arise. I have received calls to provide grief support for losses here as Department of the Army employees have passed away unexpectedly; other times I would be stopped in hallways by people asking for prayers for needs or guidance in their lives,” Niehoff said. “The only way some of that happens is by being here and being visible for civilian and military alike.”
Additionally, Niehoff conducts Bible study from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesdays in the Garden Conference Room, located in the basement of ASC’s headquarters building. It is open to all personnel at RIA.
“I started this as a request from members of ASC, and we hope to grow it for whoever would like to participate,” he said. “We are finishing up our study of the book of Philippians and plan to start a study in the book of Revelation next.”
Pizza, soda and bottled water are offered for lunch during sessions.
Assisting Niehoff in his duties is Sgt. 1st Class Lakeithia Thomas, who is the ASC Senior Religious Affairs Noncommissioned Officer.
Thomas was recognized in November 2019 by ASC’s higher headquarters, the U.S. Army Materiel Command, for creation and approval of the first Command Religious Support Plan at ASC in seven years.
And, in March, Thomas was conferred the Order of Martin of Tours, also known as Order of Saint Martin, which recognizes those individuals who have “demonstrated the highest standards of integrity, moral character, and have displayed an outstanding degree of professional competence,” stated the award. Chief of Chaplains Maj. Gen. Thomas Solhjem presented Thomas with the medal, which is the Army Chaplain Corps’ most prestigious award.
Originally from Chicago, Niehoff moved to Marietta, Georgia, just north of Atlanta in 1980. He attended high school there and obtained his undergraduate degree from Kennesaw College – later renamed Kennesaw State University – in Kennesaw, Georgia.
It was at this time that Niehoff found his calling.
“I had need in my life and reached out to God for help. It was at that time that I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart. I became involved in my church and in college I began to look for what God wanted me to do,” he said. “I looked into becoming a chaplain during my junior year in college.
“As I discussed this with many people, it seemed to be a good fit for me,” said Niehoff. “I have enjoyed my time with the Army as a chaplain and am proud of my service and also to be a part of a national mission in Iraq.”
Niehoff, who is married, has two teenaged children at home, two married children, and five grandchildren.
His wife, Crystal, is from Kansas, and they met while he was attending the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
“We have been married now for almost nine years and it was the best decision I ever made,” Niehoff said.
Upon retirement, the couple plan to live near their grandchildren, wherever that turns out to be. Presently, home is in Chanute, Kansas, Crystal’s hometown.
“I still consider myself to be from Chicago but I have no plans to return to live there when I retire from the military,” he said.
For Niehoff, future plans are flexible.
“I plan to retire in a few years,” he said. “That is always dependent upon other factors such as the country being drawn into another war, as well as family considerations.
“I have enjoyed my time here getting to know the people of ASC over the past few months, and look forward to the rest of my assignment,” he said.
To get in contact with the ASC Chaplain’s Office about any of the aforementioned services, feel free to call 309-782-4603.