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Interview with Joseph Batluck, December 11, 2003
December 11, 2003
Interview with Chaplain Colonel Joseph Batluck, the Assistant Commandant of the United States Army Chaplain Center and School.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Batluck, Joseph Interviewer: Zarbock, Paul / Brinsfield, John Date of Interview: 12/11/2003 Series: Military Chaplains Length 60 minutes

Zarbock: Good afternoon. My name is Paul Zarbock. I'm a staff person of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington's Randall Library. This is a continuation of the oral history project centering upon military chaplains. We're at Fort Jackson, South Carolina and today's date is December 11, in the year 2003. My associate, John Brinsfeld who is a retired chaplain who earned the rank of colonel.

Zarbock: Good afternoon John. How are you?

Brinsfield: Good afternoon, Sir.

Zarbock: Would you mind introducing our guest?

Brinsfield: I would be delighted. It's a privilege to have Chaplain Colonel Joseph Batluck, the Assistant Commandant of the United States Army Chaplain Center and School as our interviewee today to join the distinguished group of chaplains who are in this project. It's been my good fortune to know Joe for almost a decade as a gifted preacher, a great administrator and a caring pastor for not only the Chaplain Center and School, but for all the chaplains to who he ministered at the U.S. War College before this assignment. So thank you Chaplain Batluck for joining us today. I hope you have fun with this interview.

Zarbock: Good afternoon Chaplain, how are you?

Batluck: Sir, doing well. Good to be here.

Zarbock: My first question, what event or series of events or what individuals or series of individuals helped guide you into your selection of the ministry as a profession?

Batluck: I felt as a high school junior that God was calling me to full time Christian service. That became a very routine thought for me to have and the more I experienced it, the more I knew that was what I needed to do when I graduated high school and consequently went to bible college in preparation for the ministry.

Zarbock: What year did you graduate from high school?

Batluck: 1969.

Zarbock: Was your family, how would you describe your family, religiously oriented?

Batluck: Yes sir. I grew up in a conservative Christian home. Mom and Dad would see to it that I would be found in church three times a week and every now and then I went willingly. It formed me and by God's grace I was protected from myself because of it.

Zarbock: Okay, continue on. You said after graduation from high school you went to bible college.

Batluck: Yes sir. I come from a tradition Assembly of God that does not have really any formal requirements, educational requirements for ordination and so a bible college degree is more than enough. I graduated bible college and did what all bible college graduates do and became a youth pastor.

Zarbock: And what year did you graduate from college?

Batluck: 1972.

Zarbock: Okay so there you are and you're a youth pastor where?

Batluck: In an Assembly of God Church in Terre Haute, Indiana. My wife and I were married in September of '72 and we moved to that position shortly thereafter.

Zarbock: Was there enough salary to support you?

Batluck: There was for about the first year at which time we were notified by the church that they could no longer afford us and then we did what all aspiring youth pastors do, we sought an appointment as a pastor. Our church, the Assembly, is not an appointment system, it's a candidate system and so I returned to my home area which was Pennsylvania and sought a pastor. Shortly after we returned there, I was called by a church, voted in is more accurate for our tradition, popular vote that is. I became a pastor of the Tunkhannock Assembly of God Church in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, a town of about 10,000 with a church of about 100. My wife and I were there for barely two years and things were going as well as they could go given the fact that I was about 22 years old and didn't know a whole lot and was reminded of that on a regular basis by the congregation where the average age was 65. It was really a combination of not finding my place in ministry yet. I had not been taught the importance of not only a call to ministry, but a call to a specialized area of ministry, a very particular area of ministry. I thought it was one size fits all. So my wife and I very simply began to pray and ask God for his leading. I was not, prior service at that time, had not been in the military. At that point I just felt as clearly as I am looking at you right now that God very clearly said to me, "I want you to be a military chaplain". I did not know anything about it. I turned to my wife after my prayer time and I said, "What do you think about the military chaplaincy". And she don't know anything about it, but if I thought it was a good idea, she thought it was a good idea. Two hours later I went to a local grocery store. As I walked in the door, the manager of the produce department turned around and looked at me in his white bib apron. He was a Christian attending another church, not mine. He turned and he looked at me and again I could see as clearly as I'm looking at you right now, he said, "Joe, have you ever thought of becoming a military chaplain". I said "yes sir, and I think I was going to do that." I went home and I told my wife and three months later, I started my first day of seminary.

Zarbock: How well did you know this man in the white apron?

Batluck: Casually, just as an acquaintance. Somebody comfortable enough where he would call me by my first name and I would call him by his. Very comfortable, but we had not had any conversation at all on that topic. He was a veteran. So three years later I got to seminary, or three months later I went to seminary and feeling that God very specifically called me into the Army chaplaincy. I chose the Army because it was the biggest and the chances of getting active duty was the greatest. So God's will at that point was in the numbers I guess.

Zarbock: Where did you go? You stuck up your right hand and you swore to defend the Constitution, but where were you stationed?

Batluck: My first assignment after graduation from seminary, I was assigned to Fort Belvoir, Virginia just outside of Washington. We were there for two years and then God sent us to Germany.

Zarbock: How did your wife adjust to the military?

Batluck: Absolutely she did great then and she's doing well now, 27-1/2 years later. For us it has become a place to take care of people. It has become a place to encourage people, a place to see God work in people's lives, a place to pastor people, a place to give care to soldiers and their families, just people in uniform, a place to address the moral ethical issues that commanders need to be reminded of from time to time, a place to have an incredible club of colleagues in my chaplain college to work with, to be totally comfortable without any consideration or little consideration for denominational barriers. To work in an intradenominational setting, not having to do anything but represent the God who called me. That setting has become very comfortable for my wife and I and we have seen God do some neat things in people's lives as we have tried to serve faithfully.

Zarbock: A question of military identification. Above your left pocket is an insignia that says U.S. Army and above the U.S. Army there's an insignia. What is that insignia?

Batluck: That is the Air Assault Badge and that is awarded to those of us who totally void of common sense have learned to repel out of helicopters.

Zarbock: Couldn't you just take a cab or something?

Batluck: I'm sure we could, but that's not as much fun.

Zarbock: How long was that training?

Batluck: That training was two weeks.

Zarbock: That's very rigorous training isn't it?

Batluck: It really was and that's probably another part of the military chaplaincy that's been wonderful for us, is that has caused me to be committed not only spiritually and other ways, but also physically and so now at my age, I feel as though I'm in excellent physical shape sometimes against my will, but nonetheless I'm still very comfortable in knowing that I am doing my best.

Zarbock: The physical demands mentioned in another interview and for the sake of this tape, were you in PT today?

Batluck: Yes I was.

Zarbock: Tell me that schedule.

Batluck: For me the Army requires you to do pushups, sit-ups and run and for me the easiest way to train for doing pushups, sit-ups and running is to do pushups, sit-ups and running and so that is my regular training schedule. I will do a set number of pushups and sit-ups four to five days a week and then I used to run 4 to 5 miles a day 4 to 5 days a week, now because of my aging body, I now choose to ride a bicycle about 20 miles which takes about an hour.

Zarbock: And this is every day?

Batluck: Four to five days a week, yes sir.

Zarbock: What time of the day do you do this?

Batluck: Well bicycle in the summer in the morning and this time of year usually midday or the end of the day, whenever the traffic is low.

Brinsfield: Chaplain Batluck, would you take us please through your assignments just briefly. Where did you go for the basic chaplain course?

Batluck: I went to the basic chaplain course at Fort Monmouth/Fort Hamilton basically Staten Island/Brooklyn, New York.

Brinsfield: And what year were you there?

Batluck: I was there, I attended the basic course in two different parts, two halves. I was there January of 1975 and the summer of 1975.

Brinsfield: And then you came on active duty when?

Batluck: August of 1976.

Brinsfield: Then in August, did you report to Fort Belvoir?

Batluck: I sure did.

Brinsfield: What were your duties?

Batluck: That is a wonderful conversation. I'm with the Assembly of God, I was raised I don't drink, I don't chew and I don't go with girls that do. And walked into the Staff Chaplain's office and he looked at me, this was back in the days when chaplains were assigned as drug and alcohol pastoral counselors, he looked at me and said, "Joe, how would you like to be a drug and alcohol chaplain?" This was a Friday. I said, "No sir". He said, "Fine, we'll start on Monday". (laughter). So my first year was spent as a drug and alcohol pastoral counselor.

Zarbock: Where did you get those skills?

Batluck: Sir, I learned. The bulk of my training came as I was linked up with another civilian counselor who was a recovering alcoholic. His name was Ollie. And Ollie cared for me and I confessed my ignorance up front and he took me under his wing and taught me an incredible amount. On top of that the Army sent me to one of their two week courses that gave me a quick baptism to let me know how much I really didn't know.

Brinsfield: At Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Batluck: It sure was.

Brinsfield: And in this process did you also have duties of the chapel or a chapel?

Batluck: Yes I did. The other part of the conversation was in addition to doing that, you will also take over the 8:30 a.m. main post chapel service at Fort Belvoir.

Brinsfield: Well that was quite an honor for a beginning chaplain.

Batluck: Yes, my favorite way is saying I was greener than my uniform (laughter).

Brinsfield: Okay.

Batluck: It was incredible.

Brinsfield: Now were you assigned to the post as the drug and alcohol abuse prevention chaplain or were you sent to a unit? A headquarters company or something?

Batluck: Right. I was assigned at Belvoir being a basically garrison installation, I was assigned to the garrison with all the other chaplains.

Brinsfield: Do you remember who the post chaplain was at the time?

Batluck: Sure, John Stevey. We are still in correspondence with them.

Brinsfield: Super. How long did you remain at Fort Belvoir?

Batluck: We remained at Fort Belvoir exactly two years.

Brinsfield: Where did you go after that?

Batluck: After Belvoir, we were assigned to the 3rd Field Artillery Lance in Giessen, Germany back in the days when Lance was around.

Zarbock: I'm sorry, what?

Batluck: It was a missile that the Army had in those days that had a nuclear capability. They would shoot the missile and then they would quickly be able to move, it was very mobile.

Zarbock: What was the name of the German town?

Batluck: Giessen. G-I-E-S-S-E-N.

Zarbock: Thank you.

Brinsfield: During those years, 1978 to about 1985, there were demonstrations in Europe, in England and other places about nuclear weapons. Were any of your soldiers or commanders concerned about what their job was and what they might have to do?

Batluck: Yes there was some concern. Of course it was during the Cold War and there was the concern that we were on was a very visible concern and consequently we had a fair amount of responsive local nationals to our presence there. Yes, the commanders did frequently discuss that with me with some of the senior soldiers.

Brinsfield: You would talk to them about ethical concerns and the self-defense of Europe and that sort of thing?

Batluck: Yes. Absolutely.

Brinsfield: Do you think they felt better once they had encountered some of the language from the chaplain?

Batluck: I think they did. There were a variety of other issues as I know you remember. That's about the time women were being integrated into the Army. Drug use was incredibly high at that point. So there were a variety of fronts where we as chaplains were able to stand up and help the commanders see through come of the distracting aspects of the issues to what was really at the heart of the matter.

Brinsfield: Your training as a drug and alcohol abuse prevention person came in handy when you got into Germany.

Batluck: It has served me well in the years afterwards.

Brinsfield: Were there deployments of that unit in training sites around Germany while you were there?

Batluck: Yes there were. I was assigned to one battalion, but I covered three battalions. There were two, 155 artillery units that were also there and so I would visit the field with those artillery units and in addition we would go to, it's tough to say t his with a straight face, but I'll say it fast, we would go for six weeks every summer to Crete to do our live firing and it was definitely sacrificial.

Brinsfield: Did you have contact with chaplains from other nations such as the British or folks in Crete or in Germany for that matter?

Batluck: I had some contact with some British soldiers and some soldiers from the Greek Army, of course being in Crete. I did not have any contact with chaplains at that point.

Brinsfield: What type of contacts would you have with British and Greek soldiers? Would they just come by and say hello to the Americans?

Batluck: No, they were also doing training in Crete and our units would do a little bit of professional development together. They would share some training, some maneuver tactics together. It was sort of an international training opportunity.

Brinsfield: Great. Okay we might-- let's go to a little bit different question about the same thing. In Giessen was there a chapel community that would have such things as Protestant, youth, etc., or was it mostly tactical?

Batluck: No, Giessen was also the AAFES headquarters for Europe, still is, the Army and Air Force exchange system.

Zarbock: I'm sorry, who's-- ?

Batluck: Army and Air Force Exchange System, that's our equivalent of K-Mart, Wal-Mart store. There was an air defense artillery battalion there and there was also the group headquarters for the three field artillery battalions.

Brinsfield: What I'm leading up to is Europe had a number of opportunities for women to be involved in the chapel. Was Irene involved in chapel community life there or was there an opportunity for that?

Batluck: There was. It was a good family community. Our family was heavily involved and Irene and the four kids have been involved throughout my military career. Our opinion has been pretty simple, is that when God calls, in this case me to this ministry, he calls us and it's not a visited every now and then when you have a chance. Our family has been very involved no matter where we've been over the 27 years. Three of our four children, the one was already born when I went to seminary, but three of the four came into our family while I was in the Army and graduated high school when I was in the Army. I guess that means I'm getting old. And during that time they had been involved all along in chapel programs. Irene has been involved. For us, it's a way of life, it's not just something we do.

Brinsfield: Can you remember who the U.S. Army Europe chaplain was by any chance?

Zarbock: I'm sorry, for the purpose of this tape.

Brinsfield: U.S. Army Europe chaplain in Heidelberg? We can look that up.

Batluck: I want to say Roy Mathis. That's what I'll say.

Brinsfield: We'll double check. By the way that sounds like a really good ministry. Did you enjoy that tour?

Batluck: It was great and what was really the icing on the cake was where the three battalions were there was a chapel and it was an inactive chapel when I got there and so we started a service. We started a Catholic service. We had a priest that would come over and do that. I started a collective Protestant service. Within a matter of six months, we had 150 soldiers and families attending the chapel.

Zarbock: Let me ask for clarification, you said at the casern? What is that.

Batluck: That is a small installation in Europe, World War II vintage. Instead of in the military, the Germans would not have these big installations like we have here in the States because they were afraid of those installations being bombed or run over, so they would have these small little patch quilts all over the countryside and of course at the end of World War II we owned--

Zarbock: So it's German in origin? Is that correct?

Batluck: Yes, sir.

Zarbock: Okay. Thank you.

Batluck: Yes sir.

Brinsfield: Where did you go when you left Germany?

Batluck: To the Chaplain School at Fort Monmouth for the advanced course.

Brinsfield: And that was in 1981?

Batluck: June of '81 until December of '81.

Brinsfield: Good. Super. And you were at the Chaplain School for about six months?

Batluck: Just about, yes.

Brinsfield: Okay. Great. How was that experience? At Fort Monmouth, you probably had family quarters over in the family housing area, is that right?

Batluck: We sure did. It was great. It was good family time. It was good training experience. All Army course, you have to be at odds with something about them, but it was an excellent course. I received some good training, built good relationships with my chaplain colleagues.

Zarbock: Give me an illustration of the topics or the type of training, or anything, come down a little harder on the training that you received.

Brinsfield: The curriculum, what did you do?

Batluck: Sure. Anything from traditional pastoral skilled training or refresher we would prefer to call it, counseling techniques, leading in worship, affective preaching to something more managerial, managing Army chaplain's funds, managing facilities, managing other ministry team members or chapel staffs or church staffs to the more hard skills such as ministering in the combat environment, military funerals, tactics to some degree where you would just learn more traditional military related skills.

Brinsfield: And this was to prepare you to be a brigade chaplain?

Batluck: To be a supervisor, yes.

Brinsfield: Okay and where did you go from the chaplain school?

Batluck: Went to a training brigade at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Brinsfield: Okay and that was in 1981.

Batluck: Yes, Sir. To '84, 2 1/2 years. Yes.

Brinsfield: Can you tell us about your ministry there?

Batluck: Yeah, it was very traditional for a training installation. I was assigned as one of five chaplains to a training brigade where there were six battalions. Chaplain Nixon Carmichael was my brigade chaplain, United Methodist, absolutely wonderful, wonderful mentor and friend, senior pastor and colleague. He gave me all the room I needed to do ministry, cared for me, helped enable ministry and helped show me how to be a good staff officer and take care of soldiers at the same time.

Brinsfield: These were young soldiers, right?

Batluck: Yes they were. That was a one station union training so they were in advanced and basic and advanced training together.

Brinsfield: What did the chaplains try to do for them? I would imagine you had a lot of ministry of presence while they were going through the stations and things of that nature?

Batluck: Yes, ministry of presence is a great label. It means a lot of things to a lot of folks. For me, it's a label I use when I'm talking about being there to show these young people that I care in that I represent God who cares whether it's their particular faith group or not. Sometimes, more times than not, it's handing them tissues until they stop crying to help them through their problems. Maybe it's helping the drill sergeant and the cadre understands that the soldier is not totally wrong or out to lunch. Sometimes I think the pastoral care that chaplains do in the system is not only for the individual, the soldier, but it's for the system. I'm here to provide pastoral care to an institution and I think there's a lot of folks in civilian ministry that don't understand pastoral care to an institution. I am here to see to it that this institution that has called me is cared for as it embodies some of the noble concepts of who we are as a nation, as a country, as a Godly people. I think that the Army does that. The motto of the War College that I don't remember as well as I'm sure you do, we're not here to make war. It's our job to preserve peace and to me that's ministry to the institution, helping that institution stay on track to do what it is called to do, not make war. Preserve peace.

Brinsfield: Great. Would you share with us please your vision of your own ministry, stewardship because it's a vision that you've shared with the whole faculty of the chaplain school and I think it's a unique vision and it's worthy of preservation.

Batluck: Matthew 25 is the context and it's the parable of the talents where servants were entrusted with different quantities of talents and the one that had five, gained five and two gained two and the one that one and I know you remember that story. For me all of life boils down to stewardship. I believe God has called me to be a steward of, and these are in order of priority, my relationship with Him so it's a stewardship of a walk of faith. It's a stewardship with my relationship with my spouse. It's a stewardship of my relationship with my kids. I really believe that if I don't do those three things in that order well, that I'm worthless to anybody else and if I do those to the best of my ability, then God empowers me somehow to intersect, interact with others. Then the next level of stewardship is stewardship to the world, the greater circle, the folks God entrusts to my care. God entrusts some of the same people to our care and He entrusts different people to you and different people to me. I believe that when God someday when I have to account for my life, there's not going to be a lot I have to account for, I don't think so. I think I have to account for Him and me, my relationship with Him and how I have dealt with that, my spouse, my kids and the other people God has brought to my life and the driving goal in my life has been giving back to Matthew 25 to hear, "Well done." I would say probably 25 years ago the type A compulsive thing drove me. But somewhere in there and I really think it was somewhere around 1993 when I left the chaplain school and I'm sure you remember part of that story, when I left the chaplain school, God began to refocus my value system and help me to understand that type A's come and type A's go. It's the faithful stewardship that he is holding up as a premier value and that was important for me.

Brinsfield: Wonderful, great. Okay, if we can continue our march, our pilgrimage, if you will, from Fort Knox. Where did you go next?

Batluck: I was selected, privileged, I asked for and received to go accompanied tour to Korea and the assignment I was given on paper was not the one I got, but the one I got was the one I treasured. I was assigned as a pastor to Hanaam Village Chapel in Seoul for two years.

Zarbock: How do you spell that?

Batluck: H-A-N-A-A-M.

Brinsfield: We're not familiar with that so will you help us visualize what that ministry is?

Batluck: Really simple, Hanaam Village is a veteran community basically four high rises and three low rise buildings that house U.S. military personnel and their families in the rank of major and below and sergeant 1st class and below. In support of the military mission there at the headquarters in the 8th U.S. Army in Seoul. So there are 3000 people that lived on that very, very small village, enough room for these high rises plus the parking space plus a little 7/11 type store plus a very small modular chapel that was built just before I got there. I was given the privilege of pastoring that congregation and coordinating Catholic and Jewish coverage for the visiting priest and the visiting rabbi.

Brinsfield: Super, was there a school there like they have in Germany?

Batluck: Yes there was, not on that village. It was about a mile and a half away, but yes there was an American elementary, junior high.

Brinsfield: Did you grow to love the Korean people?

Batluck: We sure did. I'm still humbled by their revering of clergy. I mean they're very humble, respecting, respectful people, but they really respect clergy and that I had not ever experienced as I had there.

Zarbock: Let me ask, thousands of people living in high rise apartments or low rise apartments. That's pretty tight confinement.

Batluck: Yes sir.

Zarbock: Were there occasionally explosions of behavior with the residents?

Batluck: There were. I would not say, my experience across the 27 years I've been doing this is that definitely less than you see in the civilian world. I think many military families learn to deal with their issues and to get the help that is offered generally speaking more readily than civilian counterparts because it's available, because it's free. Every now and then you'd have one, but nothing, nothing extreme.

Zarbock: I guess elliptically I was almost wandering into the question of how much counseling did you do?

Batluck: I did a regular amount. I would say I probably saw about 10 folks or families a week.

Zarbock: And what were the issues generally?

Batluck: Generally I'd say probably half of them were spiritual growth issues and the other half were probably marital issues, not family, just husband and wife, communication issues.

Zarbock: Yeah. Thank you.

Batluck: Yes, sir.

Brinsfield: Okay, could we continue, I have lots of questions about these things, but when you left Korea, where were you assigned?

Batluck: Okay, after those two years of that very at traditional non-unit responsibilities, traditional pastoral assignment, I then, although I was hoping for a brigade, was reassigned to Arlington National Cemetery alive.

Brinsfield: And you did funerals?

Batluck: I did funerals full time for almost two years.

Zarbock: Was that considered good duty?

Batluck: Yes sir, it was. It was recommended to me as a privilege and although I didn't understand it before, I definitely understood it during and after. One of the greatest privileges is to conduct a ceremony and sometimes a chapel service that not only pays tribute to this fallen soldier, but to every soldier that has ever fallen before him or her, and everyone that ever will.

Zarbock: But Chaplain, who then pastors you? I mean day after day, funeral after funeral.

Batluck: We had a good team at the cemetery. There were two Army chaplains assigned to the cemetery, two Air Force and two Navy. I had other colleagues on Fort Myer, Virginia which is right next to the cemetery. A good PT regimen helps. My devotional life helps. A spouse that I could say anything to helps. It was a team thing.

Zarbock: But it is a stress, isn't it?

Batluck: Yes sir.

Zarbock: Funeral after funeral.

Batluck: It was. The most we'd have in a day would be six. Then we'd have a low day, sometimes zero, maybe one. I did just about 1000 funerals during that period, absolutely an incredible privilege. That's where God worked on my heart and introduced me to the Matthew 25 theology of ministry for my life.

Brinsfield: Do you remember how that came about?

Batluck: In a pin-point way, no. I just remember funerals are a lot of giving ministry. It doesn't have a whole lot with receiving. I knew I found somewhere in the middle when it was getting tough, I remember somewhere in there I found that God had called me to two things and they connect to Matthew 25. He called me to be faithful and he called me to be obedient and He'll deal with the rest.

Brinsfield: Very good. So the word spoke?

Batluck: Profoundly.

Brinsfield: Okay. Let's continue if we might. Where did you go from Arlington?

Batluck: I was once again privileged to be selected to do some schooling and I attended Princeton University and worked on a Master's of Theological in preaching and communications for a year.

Brinsfield: Wow. Super.

Batluck: It was good.

Brinsfield: And some of our very best chaplains have been to Princeton, Chaplain Gundez and Chaplain Hicks for example.

Batluck: Great school.

Brinsfield: When did you graduate?

Batluck: 1990, June of '90.

Zarbock: How old were you then?

Batluck: I was 39.

Zarbock: And your rank was?

Batluck: I was a major.

Brinsfield: Where was your utilization tour?

Batluck: At the chaplain school for a month.

Brinsfield: Okay. How long were you at the chaplain school?

Batluck: 1990 to 1993 and taught preaching in a military environment, the worship, the military funerals and in a variety of--

Brinsfield: A lot of great things you did, multiple training opportunities. That's wonderful. Were you in the Department of Military Ministries?

Batluck: Yes I was for the first two years.

Brinsfield: Great, and did you teach both the basic and the advanced course?

Batluck: I did.

Brinsfield: Well that's wonderful, a wonderful assignment. The commandant was...

Batluck: The first one was Brendan Wendell and then Chaplain Bernie Levy.

Brinsfield: Right. Okay. Very good.

[crew talk]

Brinsfield: Alright, so you left the chaplain school in 1993 and you went...

Batluck: I came to Fort Jackson as a deputy installation chaplain.

Brinsfield: Okay.

Batluck: In that capacity, it was my ministry basically to run the administrative side of the installation chaplain's office and Chaplain Kelly was the installation chaplain for the first 18 months and he was a God gift to me. He gave me lots of advice, lots of counseling and mentoring and lots of room to practice being a senior lieutenant colonel in the hope of being a colonel someday. I got to do a lot of mentoring and training and building relationship and enabling. That's the way I see the ministry, we are here to enable the ministry of the younger guys.

Brinsfield: Super. I worked with Chaplain Kelly so we can chat sometime.

Batluck: You sure did. We loved him.

Brinsfield: He is a great chaplain.

Batluck: He's a great chaplain.

Brinsfield: Okay from Fort Jackson?

Batluck: Fort Jackson was at that point our favorite assignment and it was our shortest assignment. We were assigned to Carlyle Barracks, the War College, as the Protestant pastor in 1995 to 1998.

Brinsfield: It passes quickly. You were the Protestant chaplain, but you also had the largest worship service there I think.

Batluck: It was a pretty good size worship service, yes.

Brinsfield: Did you have any tension involved in being an Assembly of God in that kind of atmosphere where there were a lot of what I would call mainline Protestants and Catholics? Or was denomination a non-consideration?

Batluck: It has never been an issue for me and my wife since we have been on active duty. I believe that the call to the military ministry has been a call to being a part of the Christian team and the body of Christ and that's what has made it marvelous for us, to look at what we agree on and not what separates so many people. So that has never been an issue with us. We have found ourselves at home everywhere we've gone.

Zarbock: Let me ask a question built on that that I've asked all other interviewees. At any time Chaplain, were you ever ordered, was it ever suggested in a direct or cunning way that you do anything or say anything or approach anything that would be in violation to your pastoral belief or your personal ethic?

Batluck: No sir.

Zarbock: At no time?

Batluck: Never, maybe every now and then if I think hard about it, I could cite a commander or two who might suggest something, but it was more out of ignorance than out of willful intent where they might suggest that you sort of shade the truth or something, but with regard to my pastoral duties, my duties as a clergy person, I have never had anyone dictate anything to me to act or speak in a way that is not in keeping with what I believe to be right. I tell young chaplains one of the greatest privileges we have is to be God's spokespeople.

Brinsfield: When you were at Carlyle you did a lot of great work in preaching, music ministry and religious education. I'm curious to know if you had much of a counseling load at Carlyle.

Batluck: There was a fair amount. The first year wasn't too bad because there were three of us there. We had a colonel, lieutenant colonel and a captain and then the captain's slot went away and so there were just two of us. I did not have a lot of recurring counseling. I had a good number of one or two session counseling discussions where folks would come by and say, "Hey can we chat" and the chat would end up being a pastoral counseling session that would last once or twice.

Brinsfield: Generically were there many marital problems that you encountered among the students at Carlyle?

Batluck: Less. I encountered less than I thought there were. At that point, I developed the opinion that we needed a family life guide there.

Brinsfield: Did that come to pass?

Batluck: I do know that they have regained the third slot. From what I've heard it's a family life guide, I don't know this for sure.

Brinsfield: And then moving right along so we can finish the chronology, you had one more assignment before you became the assistant commandant?

Batluck: Two more, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri where I was the installation chaplain for the maneuver support center at Leonard Wood. That was the time when Leonard Wood grew from being just the engineer center and embraced the MP's and the ordinance schools and we were there from 1998 to 2000.

Brinsfield: That was probably the most responsibility you had had up to that point.

Batluck: It was. There were 26 chaplains there and about the same number of chaplain assistants.

Brinsfield: Great. Was that a good ministry, sir?

Batluck: It was excellent. I have been very much home in training environments and that was one of them, Uncle Sam's premier training installations. It was an excellent place to do ministry.

Brinsfield: Somewhere in all of that you were promoted to colonel.

Batluck: Just as I left Carlyle, yes.

Brinsfield: That was a blessing for you and your family because it enabled you to do ministry.

Batluck: We were ready to retire and God pulled a surprise on us.

Brinsfield: Super. And then the next assignment?

Batluck: Heidelberg, the 26th Area Support Group from 2000 to 2003. It was very much like an installation like Leonard Wood, but it spanned a larger geographical area, the 26th ASG is 11,000 square miles.

Zarbock: ASG stands for?

Batluck: Area Support Group and 11,000 square miles with about 58,000 U.S. military or family members assigned to it. Sixteen chaplains who worked for me and another 40 supported the overall mission.

Brinsfield: So the religious support planning became an important part of your ministry.

Batluck: Yes, more than ever before especially because of the geographical diversity and the complex mission anything from the major headquarters area in Heidelberg where you have all the senior officers and noncommissioned officers to Kaiserslautern where you have the regional medical center that handles all of the wounded that come out of the war zones to some of the other communities.

Brinsfield: Professor Zarbock usually has an evaluation question now that we've established all of this. This is really an incredible career by the way. You've been an incredible pastor at every level. Not everybody has that privilege.

Batluck: Well for me it's been survival. If I couldn't pastor...

Zarbock: Refresh my memory, you've been a military chaplain how many years?

Batluck: 27 and a half.

Zarbock: What's it all meant? If you would put it all together, how would you conceptualize your years and experience?

Batluck: Caring for God's people. God's call on people's lives, I was raised in a tradition that basically put a lot of responsibility for calling. It was my job to get up there and rustle the bushes and see those conversions happen. My theology's changed. I'm responsible to proclaim and to watch God shake the bushes and when He shakes the bushes, it's my privilege to care for those and to help disciple those that fall out of that bush. That's what the 27 1/2 years has been. That's on the called Christ of equal importance and it's just been an absolute thrill to care for and to enable the ministry of other chaplains. Being a senior pastor doesn't mean you have to have a lot of rank or a lot of gray hair. It just means you have to take advantage of the opportunity to wrap your arms around the soldier of that other chaplain who's starting to feel the weight of the world and to shore him up in the name of my tradition and in the name of Christ. That has been an absolute joy to come along, guys like Chaplain Brinsfeld or have him come alongside me and to love me in Christ's name and to give me a word of encouragement and to proclaim the truth for my life at that point and that's given me the energy to move another day, and bring some good news.

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