SEMBACH, Germany – As a senior chaplain, Chap. (Col.) Andrew Lawrence has found a new ministry in helping to enable ministry.
His career, which began as Pvt. Lawrence in 1987 as a military policeman with the Iowa National Guard, led him through the Air Force, the Reserves and then to the active Army in 2003. While serving as a young airman in South Korea, Lawrence said he had a “God moment” and felt that maybe God was calling him into ministry. So, he started a conversation with the Catholic chaplain.
“I think one of the things that made me desire to come into the military as a chaplain were really the Catholic chaplains that I had met in my Army career and my Air Force career,” Lawrence said. “There were some phenomenal priests that were serving in uniform that I met, and who nurtured both my priestly vocation, but then also my desire to serve in uniform.”
After graduating from the Chaplain Basic Course, Lawrence deployed to Afghanistan within six months of arriving at his first duty station with the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii.
“The yearlong deployment there, and then the 15-month deployment I did in Iraq, really solidified for me why I do what I do,” Lawrence said. “I work for the Soldiers, I am responsible to my commander, and I answer to God and God alone, as I understand God to be. And that’s sort of what drives my ministry every day.”
Now, instead of ministering directly to troops each day, Lawrence serves as the Installation Management Command Europe command chaplain where he ensures service members and their families stationed in Europe have access to the religious support they need.
Lawrence described the IMCOM-Europe garrisons as the center of gravity for all things service and infrastructure related. The garrisons’ Religious Support Offices are the integrators for all things religious support-related within each garrison’s footprint. His role at the region is to facilitate that support at a larger level.
For Lawrence, like many green-suiters within IMCOM, that assignment was his first at a garrison and outside of an educational or operational environment. IMCOM is often the last thought about and most taken for granted by operational units, Lawrence said. However, he said, the diversity of the IMCOM mission reaches every single person in the European theater every single day.
“For me it’s just the importance of what we do, day in and day out, to take care of Soldiers and families and provide for their religious needs,” Lawrence said, “and to serve as that bridge between the tenant organizations and the enterprise.”
The region RSO focuses on resourcing and what they can do to make the garrison RSOs’ lives a little easier, Lawrence said. They also provide an overall vision for religious support across IMCOM-Europe, integrate with the U.S. Army Europe and Africa Chaplain’s Office, focus on manpower and provide direction for religious education.
For the past two years, the IMCOM-Europe RSO has been a pilot program for centralizing the chapels’ tithes and offerings fund – a project that will be adopted by the Institute for Religious Leadership at Fort Jackson for garrisons within the states.
Besides providing for the RSOs' material resource needs, Lawrence said a favorite part of his position is interacting with the garrison chaplains and their teams.
“Really in some ways, I get to be a pastor to pastors,” Lawrence said.