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Interview with Charles C. Baldwin, December 16, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Charles C. Baldwin, December 16, 2003
December 16, 2003
Interview with Brigadier General Chaplain Charles C. Baldwin.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Baldwin, Charles C. Interviewer: Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview: 12/16/2003 Series: Military Chaplains Length 60 minutes

Zarbock: Good afternoon. My name is Paul Zarbock, a staff member with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington's Randall Library. This is a continuation of the military chaplains oral history project. We're at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, DC and today is the 16th of December in the year 2003. Our interviewee today is Brigadier General Chaplain Charles C. Baldwin. Good afternoon.

Baldwin: Good afternoon.

Zarbock: Chaplain, tell me, what is your job title here?

Baldwin: I am the Deputy Chief of the Air Force Chaplain Service.

Zarbock: So you can say, as in the centurions of old, come thee hence and get thee ______________.

Baldwin: I can say here am I, send you; just a little distortion of the prophet, Jeremiah.

Zarbock: Chaplain, what individual or series of individuals or situation or series of situations led you into choosing the ministry as a profession?

Baldwin: Well, I was blessed to be born in a Christian home. Actually, my father was an Air Force chaplain; I grew up in an Air Force chaplain's home, and never planned on being a chaplain or a minister. And so after high school, I went to the Air Force Academy to become an Air Force officer because we loved the Air Force.

Zarbock: What year was that, sir?

Baldwin: I entered the academy in 1965 and graduated in 1969. So when I was a second classman, a junior, I was attending- we had mandatory chapel back in those days but after mandatory chapel I'd go downtown to the Baptist church. And one weekend at this wonderful church in Colorado Springs, they were having a springtime revival and the evangelist gave a call to all those who felt led to step forward and serve the Lord in full-time Christian ministry. And I really felt a pulling in my heart and call of God to go forward and I did that night. And I realized I was at the Air Force Academy, I owed the Air Force some time for my education, but I also felt compelled, called joyfully to serve the Lord in full-time ministry. So without knowing where that was going to lead, I went forward that evening and surrendered my life to Christ, to full-time Christian service. And then I had the adventure and excitement of finding out how I was gonna be able to do that. And so at the academy, we had a wonderful chaplain there, Air Force chaplain; Bob Browning was very influential in my life at the time and he was the first Air Force Academy graduate to ever become a chaplain and so I was curious about that. I talked to him about the journey. And he had been a navigator on B-52s during the Cold War and so he talked about that. He also helped me in my own journey think through the dilemma of being a Christian in the military and we had wonderful discussions about that, but more directly to becoming a chaplain. We both started checking that out and discovered that I needed to serve my commitment to the Air Force before I could enter the seminary and so I did. I graduated in 1969 and became an Air Force pilot. I flew for five years. I had two tours in Vietnam; one tour as a radar surveillance pilot flying the old Super Constellation, it was the EC-121, I flew that for four months out of Korat, Thailand on a short tour, came back home to learn how to fly helicopters, returned to Vietnam in May of '72 flying the Super Jolly Green Giant rescue helicopter, the HH-53. I spent a year as a Jolly Green pilot and our mission was to rescue downed pilots during that time and so that was the great joy of my flying life. Upon returning from that, I..

Zarbock: What year did you return, Chaplain?

Baldwin: I came back in March of 1973.

Zarbock: How old were you then?

Baldwin: I was twenty-six years old.

Zarbock: And your rank was?

Baldwin: I was a captain, mm hmm. And so I had about-- let's see, '73-- I had another year to serve on my commitment to the academy for my education so I returned to McClellan Air Force Base and flew for another year as an EC-121 pilot until my commitment to fly was fulfilled then I resigned my commission and went to the seminary.

Zarbock: For the purpose of this tape, did your time in the academy count towards retirement?

Baldwin: It does not.

Zarbock: And how many years do you have to serve after you graduate from the academy in order to meet and fulfill the obligation?

Baldwin: Well, in 1969, we owed them five years. It's increased depending on your job, but for pilots, it was five in those days. So I finished my commitment and all this time realizing that one day I wanted to be a chaplain and so I inquired if I could stay on active duty, go to seminary, but that program did not exist. And so I resigned my commission, entered the Air Force Reserves and went to seminary. And for the next four and a half years, I was a seminary student and a pastor and always had this dream and goal to get back into the Air Force.

Zarbock: And where did you do your seminary training?

Baldwin: I went to seminary in Louisville, Kentucky at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, same place my mother and father went and grandmother and grandfather went.

Zarbock: Were you a little bit older than your classmates?

Baldwin: Well, a little bit, yeah. I was- you know, I think in the mid '70s, that was when the seminaries were getting older, but I certainly was among the few that had had another life experience rather than just college to seminary, and especially in 1974 to be a Vietnam veteran having flown combat missions was an interesting dialogue during some seminary classes.

Zarbock: Were you challenged by other people in an accusatory way?

Baldwin: Oh, yes. Yeah, several times. And in fact one professor who I have tremendous respect for was just at the opposite end of the scale and was convinced that no Christian could be in the military much less, you know, be a fighting person. But I learned a lot from him and he helped me very much form my own ideas and be able to present a case for a Christian to serve in the military which has served me extremely well as a chaplain. So I enjoyed the seminary life, although I had a wife and two children and so I had to work at a church, you know, all the time. I mean it was a joy to work at the church, but it wasn't just being a seminary student. I had to have a job to put food on the table for my wife and two children. But we had all along in mind this goal one day that we would enter the Air Force. I asked the southern Baptists how soon could I get back on active duty and they said after seminary plus two years of pastoral experience would be the minimum and then I would have to compete with five or six hundred other pastors who were trying to get the limited Southern Baptist slots back into the Air Force. But we again believed that this was God's will for our life and we pursued it. And when the time came, I ended up after graduation spending about two and a half years as opposed to two years, but I received some wonderful training as the pastor of a local Baptist church that I..

Zarbock: Located in Louisville?

Baldwin: No, actually the church was just outside of Columbus, Indiana. So during my seminary days, I was an associate pastor at a church in New Albany, Indiana right across the river, but then when I asked the Southern Baptist Convention what I needed to do to become a chaplain, they said you needed to be a full-time pastor.

Zarbock: What was the congregation size?

Baldwin: Well, at the seminary church I was in when I was the bus minister, we had about three thousand people in that church and it was really a wonderful and great church. But to become a pastor, I needed to think smaller since I was a rookie and so I took a church that had about sixty-four members in this brand- you know, it wasn't a brand new church, but it was a fairly young church in Indiana-- Baptists weren't big in Indiana-- but we were starting this new church. And two and a half years later, we had grown to about a hundred and fifty members so we grew a little bit in the ministry there.

Zarbock: Was the congregation of sufficient size that they could afford to put bread and butter on your table?

Baldwin: Well, they gave us a parsonage and I think we got seventy-four dollars a month- seventy-four dollars a week to live on. And that was some lean years, but we made it and we're glad, you know, thankful for the experience. And, you know, to say we were poor, I don't consider it that we were poor, we just didn't have a lot of spending money there, but we were very thankful for that church in the middle of Indiana that allowed me to learn how to preach and counsel and help people through their family problems, which I think is required for chaplains to have that pastoral experience. So we enjoyed that. And then in January of 1979, I was able to get back into the Air Force on active duty. I got into the reserves, let's see, about 1977, so for two years I was a reservist. I had to revert back to being a lieutenant. I got out as a captain, became a chaplain lieutenant and served as a lieutenant for a little over two years and then became a captain again when I came back on active duty. But it was fun. And as of doing my reserve duty, I had all the Vietnam ribbons plus I had airborne jump wings and pilot wings and then I put on a cross, so I had unusual kind of looking uniform for a lieutenant chaplain.

Zarbock: You also were a paratrooper?

Baldwin: Well, the Air Force Academy allowed me to go to jump school at Fort Benning and then the summer after that I did some skydiving at the academy so that was pretty exciting, yup.

Zarbock: Yes, yes. You probably were somewhat different from a number of associates.

Baldwin: Yeah.

Zarbock: By the way, did you have any Vietnam veterans in your congregation?

Baldwin: Yes, we did. We had some young soldiers and of course when they found out that I had been there, that helped our relationship because again, this was the mid, now late '70s and the veterans were hurting. And to be able to say I know what it was like to come back and be spit on and be an outcast as you returned from the war, we were able to help one another work through some of those tough days.

Zarbock: Those were terrible days.

Baldwin: They were. That was a hard time for the military, yeah.

Zarbock: So you're back in the Air Force.

Baldwin: Yeah.

Zarbock: Full active duty.

Baldwin: Yes.

Zarbock: And what did the military in its wisdom decide to do with you?

Baldwin: So my first assignment was to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas and we were just thrilled with that opportunity. I was told by some of my friends at chaplain school that Lackland would be too big, you'd get lost in the crowd. You couldn't do very much. I was told by my Baptist pastor friend before I went in that we chaplains just wouldn't be able to preach very much, we were mostly counselors and that sort of thing. And so I get to Lackland at the basic training base and oh my, what a great privilege that was because we had all of the Air Force basic trainees there and we would have three services on Sunday morning, a thousand each. And I said, "If that Baptist minister could see me now, you know, preaching to a thousand airmen three times on Sunday." It was just a great time. And back in those days, the chaplains taught all the basics, adult value education. It was kind of a core values training moment where we were allowed to meet for four hours with each basic training class and help them sort out some of their values, clarification. And I enjoyed that a lot.

Zarbock: That's one of the themes that runs through other interviews. Can you scratch that apart for us?

Baldwin: Well, some chaplains didn't like it because it wasn't preaching and it wasn't teaching doctrine and things, but I saw it as a great opportunity to be allowed to be with the young airmen. And they gave us- we were taught scenarios to tell a story, to describe an event where you would have to make a moral choice. And so you would lead the airmen on through the discussion of the options and then you would say, "And what would you do?" and then you'd listen to them. And then kind of the ground rules were you were not allowed to say, "That's good," or, "That's bad,"; you would say, which my wife hates me saying, "Thank you for sharing that." But we would say that. We would acknowledge that they had a position. And then the part I liked was, "And since you told us all yours, if you don't mind, I'll tell you mine." And so they'd say, "Yeah, go ahead there, Chaplain." And so I'd tell 'em what I thought about premarital sex or about the consequences of being in a battle where you would have to choose to either take a life or not. And so there was a teaching moment, you just had to learn how to obtain permission from the group to share that.

Zarbock: At what level were drugs and alcohol a problem?

Baldwin: Well, this was 1979 to 1980 and I'm sure they were a problem, but I think we were actually past that for people coming into the military. I don't know. Maybe I was just ignorant of that, but I don't recall it being much of an issue for the airmen. But some of the other moral choices, obviously TV and the movies were becoming more explicit in some of the things they were presenting as far as a moral standard goes and we were having to deal with some of those choices. And, you know, the sexuality issues, what to do about that and living in a- certainly half- not half, but, you know, a good number, a third of the airmen were women and so we were accepting women into the corps and the young men had to learn how to deal and accept and treat a young woman as his equal and--.

Zarbock: Or his superior in military rank.

Baldwin: ...saying, "Yes, ma'am," to the training instructor and so forth. So all of those were good experiences and very, very enjoyable. And of course the preaching was fun. I learned- you know, you had to learn how to preach fast because the thirty-minute Baptist sermon back home that you could get away with, you just couldn't, you just didn't have that time so you had to cram it into ten or fifteen minutes and that was a good lesson to learn. And so we enjoyed our tour in San Antonio. We had our third child-- our son was born in San Antonio-- and so we joined the Air Force, we were living our dream, felt like this was God's will being played out in our life. I had one goal back in those days as I thought about my chaplain career and I said- asked the Lord if I could just have one assignment to the Air Force Academy so I could go back and, you know, share from my Vietnam experiences and my time as a chaplain help those cadets through their journey. I enjoyed immensely being an academy cadet. I had a wonderful cadet experience and was so thankful for the chaplains who were there to help me deal with the moral and spiritual dilemma of being in the military. I thought I wanted to share that. But, you know, again, no guarantees at all that I could get back there, but that was kind of one of my goals that I wanted to do. And so while at Lackland, after two and a half years there I volunteered for a remote assignment to a place called Decimomanu.

Zarbock: Would you spell that please?

Baldwin: Yeah, yeah. Deci- it's on the island of Sardinia, D-e-c-i-m-o-m-a- manu and n, u. Manu, Decimomanu.

Zarbock: On Sardinia?

Baldwin: The island of Sardinia.

Zarbock: I'm gonna interrupt long enough to say you are the only person whom I've interviewed that's put his foot on the island of Sardinia.

Baldwin: Well, actually I called my father, who had a twenty-two year as a chaplain, twenty-two years as an Air Force chaplain. He was a World War II chaplain for two and a half years. And so I called him and said, "Dad, I got an assignment to Italy," is the way the orders read. And I told him, "Decimomanu." He said, "Son, that's in Sardinia and I was there for one year during World War II." So his bomb wing got stationed at the same air base on the island of Sardinia during World War II. So that was kind of fun to be able to go back to the place. It had been closed since, you know, the 19 early '50s and now it's 1981.

Zarbock: Again, for the purpose of this tape, how did you designate this site?

Baldwin: It was a NATO base on the island of Sardinia.

Zarbock: No, but your assignment was called a what?

Baldwin: It was called a remote tour.

Zarbock: Okay, remote means?

Baldwin: Remote means you do not take your family.

Zarbock: And why couldn't you take your family?

Baldwin: There were no facilities to take care of the families, no schools, no houses, just airmen only. And so obviously when I went to Vietnam, I had done that 'cause when you go- so this was my second remote tour in the Air Force. And so I went there as we say Father Mulcahy for the whole island. There was only one chaplain so I became the chaplain for the island because I mean there was a small installation, but a very active base and we enjoyed it again immensely. The hard part of that year was that my wife had three children, you know, one one-year-old and then a seven and a five and so she had a seven, five and one-year-old that she had to take care of for a year when I was on the island of Sardinia taking care of the troops that were there so it was very challenging for her.

Zarbock: What problems were you faced with?

Baldwin: Well, obviously it's too far away to just come back every couple of months or so, so we had determined that we would try to get the family together at Christmastime. As it turned out, she came down with pneumonia and could not travel-- we were planning on her to come away and her parents come down and take care of the kids so she could have a little European vacation-- but just before the trip came, she came down with pneumonia and got very sick and so we didn't get to see each other for a year.

Zarbock: What about the troops whom you were serving? What sort of problems did they present?

Baldwin: Well, they were a good group there. The mission of that base was air weapons instrumentation training it was called and all of the fighter wings in Europe would come down to Sardinia to fly on the range. And so the purpose of our base and the hundred and fifty of us that were stationed there was to take care of all the fighter pilots from Europe that would come there for two weeks and they would fly on the range and we were there to take care of them. So we had about a hundred and fifty of us permanent folks and then we had the temporary duty. So the challenge was to, you know, keep up the morale of the troops that were there. Although it was a beautiful place to be, it was just remote. We were away from our families. Then when the pilots would come in, they were exciting is the good word, rowdy is, you know, the reality probably, but there were some great guys that came in with that group. But they came in to fly and fight and to play golf and to go to the beautiful beaches of Sardinia. But I had a great chaplain assistant there. There was one chaplain and one chaplain assistant and we tried to run a chapel program to take care of the permanent party, but then we also had a program that we hoped would outreach to the pilots who came to visit us. And we would be on the flight line with the pilots, we'd meet every squadron that came in and tell 'em, "We're the chapel team and we're here to help you if you need anything." And so every kind of variety of family problem popped up that year, you know, from divorces to children getting hurt or even one death, so all those tragedies of the human drama happened.

Zarbock: What was the communication like? Could you pick up a telephone in Sardinia and call the United States?

Baldwin: Yeah, no you couldn't do that. I mean you could, but it was very expensive, but obviously not like today and there wasn't e-mail for sure and so it was- that part was- we were back in the days of calling the operator and saying, "Over," you know, say talk for about a minute and say, "Over," and the operator would throw the switch and then the other party would come back and they would say, "Over." And you'd get those kind of morale calls once a week or so. And, you know, the entertainment was that the morale, welfare and recreation group, MWR, would send us boxes of VCR tapes so we would watch the latest TV shows which were, you know, just a few months old. So that kind of thing went on. The significant event other than just, you know, being able to be present with those people during a separation moment, just to live with them, walk with them as they were experiencing that stuff. I enjoyed preaching. We preached in a downtown hotel where everybody lived. And then when we finally after about six months moved on base, we used the dining hall so they were clanging around setting out the dishes and the pots and food service line as we were closing out the worship service. But that was part of the life on the island of Sardinia and, you know, it was great. I was a young captain and enjoyed that style. And for me and probably for most of us, the hardest challenge then was being away from our families and our, you know, mostly wives. There were a few female airmen there, but most of us were men there with our wives and children back home. And just the expense of going home was too much and most of us just, you know, spent a year waiting to go home. But actually just before I left, I was given word that I would be assigned to the Air Force Academy upon returning from this remote tour so we had our goal in sight. That helped us certainly for my wife and I to be able to talk about we're going back to the academy. And so I went back to San Antonio, picked the family up and we went to Colorado Springs and spent the next four years as a chaplain to the cadets. And again I thought I had just fulfilled all the goals I ever wanted to do as a chaplain by being able to do that and had a wonderful time I just enjoyed immensely. I was a little intimidated by the big marble pulpit in the cadet chapel, but you get used to it and get over it and realize that it's hopefully the message not the messenger that people- that changes people's lives and I was convinced of that and wanted to be true to the gospel, wanted to preach the word clearly and challenge the cadets to follow Christ. And, you know, by that time, mandatory chapel had been disbanded and so it was like most other bases where, you know, you needed to go- you had to be creative in having services. We tried to meet the needs of the congregation so that it would grow. So we had a great time and I loved being a chaplain among the cadets.

Zarbock: Other chaplains at other service academies said that their days started early and went on.

Baldwin: Yeah.

Zarbock: And it went on when the last person closed the door.

Baldwin: Yup.

Zarbock: Basically was that your experience, it started early and it went all of the time?

Baldwin: Yup. We would have morning chapel every morning at six-thirty I believe is when we started the chapel. And it was voluntary then, but we'd always have, you know, thirty, fifty, sometimes depending on the season a hundred cadets come out for morning chapel. And so we shared that among the chaplains. I didn't have it every day, but I enjoyed it a lot and I loved morning chapel. When I was a cadet, I went every day as a cadet for four years to the morning chapel. It meant so much to me to start the day by doing that.

Zarbock: Was the service a somewhat abbreviated service?

Baldwin: Yeah, it's about, you know, thirty minutes, sang a few songs and have a cadet lead the devotional thought. That was it.

Zarbock: The cadet would lead?

Baldwin: Yeah, the cadet would usually preach, but every once in awhile the chaplain would preach.

Zarbock: How were the cadets selected?

Baldwin: They just volunteered. It was their service and, you know, they would- and, you know, going way back to my cadet life, you know, I shall never forget the influence that those, you know, senior cadets who would talk of their walk with Christ and how important it was to follow him. So that morning chapel has always been a special time. And then going back as a chaplain-- and we would take our turn in the preaching cycle-- but mostly it was cadet-lead, you know, singing those wonderful choruses in that gorgeous chapel and then, you know, hearing somebody take the Bible and apply it to the daily walk of cadet life. It was great.

Zarbock: What sort of counseling were you called upon to do?

Baldwin: Yeah. Well, the big change for me in the cadet life was having women cadets there. And so they were there now and that was something new to me and certainly added a new dimension to cadet life. It wasn't just the test of physical, mental, you know, standards, military standards, it was also interrelational and how you get along and behave in this not only disciplined society but, you know, also you've entered adult life and you have some choices there. And the consequences of the- I guess I was just amazed at the severe consequences for the women if they became pregnant. You could not stay. You could not be married. So your choice was to keep the baby and leave to have an abortion or you could give the baby away and come back after the baby was adopted. I mean none of that to me as a Christian minister was, you know, the best choice that one could make as an eighteen through twenty-two-year-old person so those were tough. You know, so you reminded them often, "Please, remember the consequences of the things that you do because"- and, you know, male cadets, men cadets could also be sued for paternity suits and be forced to leave if they were, you know, found guilty or admitted to being the father of the child.

Zarbock: On what basis? What legal basis would there be?

Baldwin: Well, if the mother, you know, required their presence or they might choose to be married and step up to their responsibility as the father of this child. And since you couldn't be married as a cadet, you had to leave. And so again, there was this..

Zarbock: So the regulation was you've got to be single, period.

Baldwin: You cannot be married for any reason. So those were tough- you know, it wasn't tough, you just realized this is the way you have to live and having women. And of course we're in the year of 2003 where the Air Force Academy's going through a very difficult time dealing with sexual assault issues at the academy, but it's something, you know, that has- whenever you get men and women living together in the same dormitory and then you add to that power that an upperclassman has over a lowerclassman, it brought about some challenging dimensions in relationships.

Zarbock: And there are stresses on everyone.

Baldwin: Yeah.

Zarbock: First year in the academy or the final year in the academy.

Baldwin: Yup. Oh yeah. It's a great place but a very challenging place and academically, you know, just excellent and all the other, you know, things that the academy asks you to do.

Zarbock: Just as a curiosity, what courses did you enjoy the most and what the least?

Baldwin: Well, we had so many mandatory core courses 'cause we all got Bachelors of Science degrees and in the '60s you actually could pick a major, but there weren't many choices. I was a civil engineering major and, you know, I enjoyed that. I was good at math; I wasn't very good at history. I was always thankful to just pass. So I enjoyed the sciences thinking that I would- you know, early on before I felt this call to the ministry that I would be a pilot or be an engineer of some sort. So I enjoyed that and really didn't think about philosophy or others but the academy wasn't given much in those days to the Military Chaplains or the humanities. But my senior year actually I was given the great privilege of putting aside civil engineering and they created a major called general studies and I was allowed to study ethics and philosophy under one of the professors, then Colonel Mel Wakin who was the Professor of Ethics there.

Zarbock: How do you spell his last name?

Baldwin: Wakin, I think it's W-a-k-i-n, Wakin. And he's now a retired brigadier general and a tremendous man, a Roman Catholic in his own faith journey, personal faith and very committed to that and also a great philosopher. And he has been kind of the academy's resident expert on morale and ethics in the military. So for a year I got to study rather intensely with Colonel Wakin and so that was a new kind of study which I'm sure helped me start thinking, you know, along the lines of what I would study at the seminary which, you know, didn't happen for five or more years. I studied Chinese as a cadet, learned Chinese. When I showed up at the seminary and they asked me what kind of language I studied in college, I said-- I'm sure they meant Hebrew or Greek-- I said Chinese and they said, "That probably won't help you." But it did. It actually helped a little, Hebrew which is a character language and Chinese which is a language of characters so they went together so it was fine. But anyway, we..

Zarbock: Did the Chinese help you on Sardinia?

Baldwin: No. I've eaten Chinese food around the world though since and so it's been fun. So let's see. We had a wonderful time. I thought I'd finished all the goals that I had set forth for myself by being able to serve at the academy. And we were there four years and enjoyed it a lot. I mean there were challenges and good times and all of that, but for the most part, it was just a wonderful, happy experience for us. And from there, we got into staff work. I was assigned to the headquarters staff at Ramstein Air Base for the Command Chaplain of the United States Air Forces in Europe. And I was a mid career major, assigned to his office to work the readiness issues. This was still during the Cold War, 1986, and the chaplain service was really starting to get into planning, getting the chaplains and chaplain assistants ready for involvement in deployments and things. And again, this is a long time in the military mind from 1973 when we kind of pulled out of Vietnam, so thirteen years later we're starting to talk readiness issues again. So for three years, I served in the office of the Command Chaplain as his Readiness Officer and then got into the personnel work from a major command standpoint just, you know, giving input into people's assignments obviously. There were no decisions made at the maj-com; they were always passed on up the chain as we know. But I enjoyed that also. And we loved living at Ramstein Air Base. Our family just had a wonderful tour in Germany. Our son graduated from Ramstein High School and just had a great time there, our oldest son.

Zarbock: Again, for the purpose of this tape, Ramstein is spelled?

Baldwin: R-a-m-s-t-e-i-n Air Base, Germany. And it was the headquarters of the air forces in Europe and there were thirty-nine bases, air force bases in Europe during those days in the mid '80s. Now we have six. We have reduced the number of air force bases in Europe significantly since the Wall fell in 1989. But we were stationed there from '86 to '89 and it was great, we loved it. And I also was one of the substitute preachers at the base chapel there at Ramstein Air Base and met a chaplain there that was to become my best friend in the chaplain service, a Pentecostal actually Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee, Chaplain Ben Perez and his wife, Carmen. We met there and became very good friends and that friendship has endured and today he's still- I would consider him my best friend. But we had a great time, enjoyed the culture, enjoyed learning the staff work. One I suppose never knows if he could do staff work till you have to go do it, but I enjoyed it and I realized that I could do things orderly and was fairly good at presentations to prepare the Command Chaplain for his briefings. So I enjoyed that. I was selected for lieutenant colonel while there and then assigned a very tough assignment at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in South Carolina and as the Wing Chaplain, we call them, actually Installation Staff Chaplain, the senior chaplain on the base. And so of course my family was dragging our feet. They did not want to leave Germany. We had such a great time. And even Myrtle Beach was not enough to, you know, get them to want to leave, but we did. And we arrived at Myrtle Beach and we had been there many times since I'm from North Carolina. We'd been there on vacation probably fifteen times and thought well, this will be great. But we discovered that living at Myrtle Beach is different than visiting Myrtle Beach 'cause you have to put up with all the tourists if you're a resident there. But we had a very interesting experience at Myrtle Beach. I was again the Wing Chaplain, had my first experience at leading the chapel team there. And we got there in the summer of '89 and Hurricane Hugo got there in the fall of '89 so we spent that first year cleaning up after Hurricane Hugo. And the base got hit very hard and the community surrounding the base was also whacked pretty hard, so that was a challenging moment. But then in the summer of 1990, we said, "We're gonna enjoy the base, we're gonna enjoy the beach, you know, the golfing here is great." And even though, you know, given today's War on Terrorism and it seems so long ago, but in August of 1990, we had about two weeks' notice to deploy to Saudi Arabia and two-thirds of that wing of A-10s deployed with two weeks' notice to Saudi Arabia and I went with them. I was the senior chaplain for that particular base in Saudi Arabia and that was the highlight of my chaplain experience, seven and a half months in the desert with the fighter pilots and a team of eventually ten chaplains and ten chaplain assistants. And when I see the stories today or hear the stories of the chaplains in Iraq, in Afghanistan, it brings back all these memories of my time in the desert during Desert Shield and Desert Storm that was my wartime experience as a chaplain. And again, it's hard to put into words what that meant to me to be present with those men and women who were on the very frontlines. The A-10s were those- we were at a place called King Fahd Air Base in Saudi Arabia which for the buildup was the most forward-stationed base. When the war started we opened another base right on the Kuwaiti border. But we built this tremendous tent city that eventually housed six thousand people. And I was the senior chaplain for this crowd and it was wonderful, you know, and terrifying and all the things that any chaplain who's been present in battle would say. Obviously as an Air Force chaplain we were on the base. We did not move forward with the army chaplains as they moved forward with their troops so it was a different experience. But we did take care of those pilots who went off and came back and, you know, just great stories of how God is sufficient, his grace is sufficient for every crisis, every need. We lost a few pilots back in those days during the war and had memorial services for 'em there, we would write letters to the family of those who were killed, all those things you, you know, read about from the former generation, the World War II generation that obviously must have done that whole lot more than we did, but we got a taste of that. And the other big difference for Desert Storm and Vietnam was that the Nation was behind us. We had this tremendous support from the Nation receiving letters and thanks and boxes of goodies all the time. And they'd usually come to the chaplain's office and say, "Please pass those out to the troops and tell 'em we love 'em." So there was this tremendous affirmation during Desert Storm.

Zarbock: On a very practical day-by-day experience, what was life like? For example, you said you were living under canvas, is that right?

Baldwin: Right, yes.

Zarbock: It's a very hot environment.

Baldwin: Yup. Well, for the Air Force, we had our air-conditioned tents and for a select few Air Force officers, the Commander's staff-- and I was considered a part of his staff-- we had trailers, little- they were just probably eight by ten trailers, had a bed and a bath and they were air conditioned. So our conditions were much better than our Army friends right outside the gate. We had the 101st Air Assault with five thousand soldiers over there. Actually, let's see, I guess they had about twenty-five thousand soldiers, enormous, you know, with their Apaches and all of that. And so we would, you know, close every day giving thanks to God that we were in the Air Force even though I know that he was with the army and giving them all they needed to live. But yeah, we had- a normal day would go after we got the camp built. I had a friend, another lieutenant colonel, he was lieutenant colonel at the time and we started every day with a morning run. We got up at six in the morning, we met at six and we went on a three-mile run, came back and we were in the mess tent by seven and had breakfast and then went to work and then worked for about twelve hours visiting the troops. We set up the counseling tents and people would come in. They knew that the chaplains were there for them.

Zarbock: Again, there were men and women in your organization.

Baldwin: Yup, absolutely. And one day- you know, we were not morality police, you know, that was not our role. Our role was to try to remind people that God is with 'em in this terrible situation and this frightening situation. We knew we were going to war. General Schwarzkopf in late October said there would be no rotation. We were all kind of waiting for the Air Force style of going to war in that you rotate over there and then when you've finished your ninety days, rotate home. He announced in October there would be no rotation. We're here for the duration of this war. And so then I probably understood for the first time my father's commitment and philosophy of ministry that you're just here till this is over.

(tape change)

Zarbock: Chaplain Baldwin, go ahead.

Baldwin: Okay I was speaking of about my wonderful experience and the highlight of my chaplain career as being a chaplain in the middle of a war zone in Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. It was the highlight for me because I felt like we had been prepared for that moment, I'd had my own personal wartime journey's I was able to preach with conviction that god was with you, present in the heat of battle and it was helpful I think to those pilots and those who were serving the warriors to hear that their pastor had also been there and knew that god would be present with them and so again I felt extremely fulfilled in my own moment of pastoral experience but also felt like god was using me for this particular time. So I will always say and I've had some wonderful experiences since then but nothing as good as that and the wonderful chaplains and chaplain assistants that were with us during those 7 1/2 months will forever be among the favorites that I have. I saw them stay up late, some cry, some work hard, some in the heat of the day walk with the maintenance guys who were repairing airplanes, loading bombs, all of that. To stand on the end of the runway and say, you know, "God be with you as you take off into this terrible horrendous battle." So that was the highlight, you know, as we think back on my chaplain experience, came back from Myrtle Beach and found out they were gonna close the base so we spent our third year at Myrtle Beach kinda closing the base down and watching friends that we'd been in life's, you know, one of life's most tragic moments, shared that together. We also had a tremendous homecoming, much different than the Vietnam experience; we were received at every airport along the way coming home with great fanfare and celebration. We got to Myrtle Beach, the whole town turned out and welcomed us as returning heroes who had set a nation free and it was just great. My wife and children obviously were there to meet us and it was a great homecoming experience and we still celebrate that and the memorabilia from those days still is in my office and I look fondly on that and remember the great people we were with. And from there after 3 years at Myrtle Beach as the wing chaplain, I had the great privilege to be assigned to the Chief of Chaplains Office here, Chaplain Harland was the Chief of Chaplains and he asked me to serve on his staff as the Protestant Assignments Officer and so I came up here to do that job and was told I'd be here at least 3 years and as it turned out we were here 1 year. I was selected below the zone to Colonel, the Air Force Chaplain Service.

Zarbock: That phrase has been used on other tapes, what is below the zone?

Baldwin: Yeah that means 1 year earlier than when you come into the zone as we say in personnel jargon, you are in this window of opportunity to be selected for promotion. If you get selected early, it's called below the zone and the chaplain service had not picked a chaplain for 18 years so I wasn't expecting it, nobody was and so we were all surprised by that and extremely grateful that I had been selected a year early and because of that I think I was also selected to attend the Air War College in residence at Maxwell Air Force Base the following year. So I was just here in the Chief's office one year and then went down as a student at the Air War College for 1 year at Maxwell Air Force Base.

Zarbock: But you were now a Colonel, is that correct?

Baldwin: I was a Colonel Select, I was awaiting my number to come up and so during that year Chaplain Harland told me that I would go from the year of school to become the Commandant at our Chaplain School there at Maxwell. So I stayed at Maxwell for 2 more years as the Commandant of the Air Force Chaplain School and I was extremely thankful for that job. We had normally, usually picked some very old looking senior chaplain who had served so faithfully for almost 30 years and given him this last assignment at the school to tell all the young ones how to do it. But Chaplain Harland had this idea that if we put a younger Colonel in there that have a little more fire and not as much experience so you kinda trade off some of that. But he gave me the great privilege to serve as the Commandant of the Chaplain School and we enjoyed that, I loved telling war stories to the new chaplains that came through and the senior and the wing chaplains that would come back for training. And has as our goal to try to convince the chaplains and there was the theme of Chaplain Harland of course, integrity and ministry to be faithful to your call, to not waiver in proclaiming the faith that you represented and if that was Jewish then you were here to represent the Jewish faith and if you're a Christian minister, to not hold back and proclaim the gospel boldly without, you know, any hindrance at all. So we enjoyed that and at the same time we were teaching all of us, including myself the great joys of pluralism, how to get along in a pluralistic environment, religiously and we were not here to judge one another but to serve with one another and to respect one another and so we were able I think to pass on lessons from the war zone and from the other experiences we had had and we also brought into the Chaplain School, the Chaplain School became the Chaplain Service Institute because we included in that the training of the Chaplain Assistants. We moved their school from Keesler Air Force Base to Maxwell so that we could all receive training at the same place. So had the great joy of being a part of that consolidation effort but also to get to meet the young Chaplain Assistants that were joining the career field and to try to communicate to them how important they were in the Chaplain Service and we would again use our experiences in Desert Shield and Desert Storm to talk about what a very valid and important role that the Chaplain Assistant had to keep the ministry going. So that was fun, so we enjoyed our 2 years as the Commandant of the Chaplain School. Then we moved to Air Force Base Command, Colorado Springs, I was selected to be the Command Chaplain and we call it triple headed because you served in different commands at the same place, so I was the Command Chaplain for US Based Command, Air Force Base Command and NORAD, which was North American Aerospace Defense Command and it all happened there in Colorado Springs at Cheyenne Mountain and I just had a great time. My wife and I enjoyed the Space Command immensely and I got to learn a part of the Air Force that I'd never seen before the ICBMs, Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles, they were all under Space Command and we were just learning to fly satellites so we have several bases where these young airmen take control of satellites that provide the global positioning system information to the warriors and to the airplanes and to everybody else that's got a GPS receiver nowadays. But got to see that part of the Air Force, I want to Thule, Greenland and to Woomera, Australia to Clear, Alaska to visit the troops in Space Command, so I enjoyed being a Command Chaplain, had a great team there in Colorado Springs and stayed there 3 years, worked for a tremendous Commander and they just were extremely supportive of the ministry and helping us help the Chaplains do their work. Obviously as the Command Chaplain my role was to not only give advice to the Commander at the major command level and to the staff there but also to serve sort of as a Bishop, an overseer to the Chaplains and Chaplain Assistants in the command and so we would travel to the bases and encourage and sometimes correct those who weren't treating their folks in the best way. And again, you know, you wonder how would you get prepared to do that and I think it's life's experiences and the journey that you have to go on and walk through yourself in order to be able to say to someone else, "It would be better if you did it this way" and then we were obviously supporting the policies of the Chief of the Chaplain Service, so we weren't making up our own policies, we were supporting the policies of then Chaplain Sam Thomas who was the Chief of Chaplains at that time. Then Chaplain Bill Dannegger became the Chief of Chaplains and he assigned me to be the Command Chaplain at Air Education and Training Command at Randolph Air Force Base and so we were back to Texas and on the other side of town in San Antonio, opposite of Lackland Air Force Base where I had my first experience as a Chaplain. But now I'm in the headquarters at the Training Command and that was another just wonderful adventure. We knew we were coming into the window and my last opportunity to be selected to be a general officer, so that, you know, reality was with us but we tried not to focus on that but rather focus on trying to help the Chaplain Service Personnel in Training Command with the needs that they needed, the logistical support and also personnel support and enjoyed getting around to all the training bases. I went back to Laughlin Air Force which is where I went to pilot training in Del Rio, Texas and was their National Prayer Breakfast speaker and that was hilarious to go back after almost 30 years and now I'm a Chaplain Colonel and get to see all these Second Lieutenants going through pilot training and just remember like it was yesterday those days when I was a newlywed, no children, one little dog and living there at pilot training trying to make it through, earn your wings. So all that training experience, the navigator training, all of the technical training that the Air Force does, we got to see that and learn how the Air Force gets everybody off to the right start and serve as the Senior Pastor for the Training Command and we enjoyed that also. After about a year and a half in that job we found out we were selected to be the next Deputy Chief of Chaplains and came here to Washington DC and have had the great privilege for the last 3 years of serving as the Deputy to Chaplain Major General Lorraine Potter. She has been a great Chief of Chaplains and she has treated me with great dignity and respect and I think we've been a very good team to help lead the Chaplain Service through these days. We got off to a rather challenging start because we had a time there in the Chaplain Service where we had some concern over treating everyone fairly. We did a climate assessment that came out rather negatively that people felt like they weren't being treated fairly and there was some discrimination racially and ethnically and religiously and so Chaplain Potter took the lead and just attacked all of those processes that could have held some people down and made significant changes that I think will be her legacy and I'm very thankful that I've been able to serve with her here and she's certainly taught me a lot about leadership and taking on tough issues and dealing with 'em. So it's been a great privilege to be her deputy and we will trust the lord for the way ahead in the days that follow.

Zarbock: Two questions Chaplain, questions that I ask all of the interviewees, question number one, in your military career, has there ever been a situation in which you were ordered or which it was subtly suggested or cunningly suggested that you do something that was in violation of your religious beliefs and personal ethic?

Baldwin: Never, never as a pilot although that was only a 5 year experience but for the past 25 years as a Chaplain I have never been asked to ever violate my own conscience or tell anybody else to do that. I've never been hindered in my preaching, every Chapel I've ever been in, I've preached the same sermons. My wife could probably give you about the three good ones that I have that are preached over and over again that hopefully proclaim the gospel with a clear note and call people to follow Christ. I've never been hindered in that and nor anyone ever suggested that we should kind of calm it down a little bit. I did have one supervisor when I was a young chaplain, he was a Major, I was a Captain, he said "He thought I was a bit narrow" but I decided I'd stick with it and it served me alright and but no one, you know, the military is very-- the military culture I think is a conservative culture and has great respect for the legacy of the Chaplain Service and they don't want us to violate or to compromise our positions. They may not agree with us completely on some of these things and but they want to hear the Chaplains position on that and it has always been respected and I think appreciated.

Zarbock: My last question, How many years have you been in the military?

Baldwin: Well if you count my 4 years as a cadet and count the 4 years in the reserves which I do because I was proud to be a reserve, I have been in the military now since 1965 which is about 38 years and I have enjoyed every minute.

Zarbock: How would you take your experiences in the military including two wars, your seminary training, your whole life, what would you say as this videotape will be there after you and I aren't, what would you tell your children and your grandchildren, what have you learned from all of this life?

Baldwin: Well I've learned that god is in control, this is his world. One of my favorite hymns as a cadet, we would look out the Chapel windows and we would sing "This is my father's world" and that hymn has stuck with me all these years and through the good and the bad times and the great times, the celebration, horrible times of war, god is still in control, I've always believed that and I also believe that as a Christian we have this tremendous message of hope that is extremely important to tell and not everyone agrees obviously. We have many people of different faiths but at the right time when advertised correctly and we are allowed to preach the gospel, I've seen the gospel change people's lives and I am absolutely convinced that that is what needs to be preached over and over again and we should never, you know, be arrogant or rude in our presentation. I don't think Jesus was but he certainly never watered anything down and I found that Chaplain Service is this unbelievable unique organization that allows us to be ourselves while we have this great respect for each other that may be different than us, even now, you know, today we have Muslim Chaplains in the Air Force that wear a crescent on their uniform and we respect them, we allow them to preach the messages that they believe and then we work side by side in the hospitals in trying to help families through these tough days. So I am thankful for the freedom that we have in America to practice our faith without any fear of being punished because we believe a certain way but I am also very encouraged that our nation and, you know, the military family has certainly been open to a little Baptist preacher who came up from a preacher's family and was allowed to serve in the military and all these different and exciting places, we've enjoyed it immensely.

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