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Interview with Paul A. Blundell, December 10, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Paul A. Blundell, December 10, 2003
December 10, 2003
Interview with retired Colonel and Chaplain Paul Blundell
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Blundell, Paul A. Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul and Brinsfield, John W. Date of Interview:  12/10/2003 Series:  Military Length  59 minutes


Zarbock: Good morning. My name is Paul Zarbock. A staff person of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s Randall Library. Today is the 10th of December 2003. We’re at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. This videotape is part of the military chaplain’s special project. My associate in this matter is John W. Brinsfield, Dr. Brinsfield who is a retired Army chaplain and reached the rank of colonel and is now retired. Our interviewee is Paul Blundell.

Zarbock: Good afternoon. Please tell me what event or series of events or individuals, how did you select the ministry?

Blundell: I grew up going to two churches my folks were involved with. My father was Lutheran, my mother Methodist and we attended those periodically, one or the other, one or the other. So not a real strong background. I started dating a girl in high school that was a Baptist girl.

Zarbock: Now where is this?

Blundell: Northwest Missouri, a little place called Weston just across the river from Fort Leavenworth. That’s where I grew up. So I started dating her and through a series of events God intervened, changed my life and through a miraculous vision I guess you’d say I understood redirection of life and the call to the ministry.

Zarbock: Did this happen as on the road to Damascus or was it a slow…

Blundell: It was pretty much a Damascus Road experience.

Zarbock: A real epiphany.

Blundell: Yes sir.

Zarbock: So you remember it vividly?

Blundell: Very vividly.

Zarbock: Tell us about that.

Blundell: Yeah, it was probably late one night, early in the morning, in the wee hours there just really dealing with issues trying to figure out where life was headed, why I was involved with this girl so on and so forth and in that searching process, a bright light in the room suddenly appeared. In that light, I could visualize the face for me Christ and he said to me, “Paul, I’ll call you home”. That was the end of that.

Days later, weeks later, time was really kind of confused during that period, the same type of vision, same kind of time period. Then he said, “Paul, I’ve got something I want you to see.” The whole room became a moving screen as if I was driving down a country road looking at one town, one roadside town of such and such, and every town had a small white church with a large steeple on it, just perfect country towns.

Having been saved at a Baptist church, country Baptist church, I only associated with little churches. They didn't have multiple staff, there was one guy and he was a preacher and so that’s all I knew. That then was the direction I took.

Zarbock: Captain, how old were you?

Blundell: I was 20.

Zarbock: Had you been in school, you finished high school…

Blundell: I was going to school for pre-veterinary medicine and in the ROTC program at Northwest Missouri State College in St. Joe, Missouri.

Zarbock: So what happened? Did you drop one program?

Blundell: At the end of that, would have been the end of the second year, actually midterm of the second year in December I disenrolled from the ROTC program and the pre-veterinarian course and went to Southwest Baptist University, at the time college in Baldwin, Missouri, and then started the study of _____ religious studies was the terminology for the ____ course so I started religious studies there and finished up in July of ’81.

Zarbock: You got your Bachelor’s degree in what?

Blundell: Religious Studies.

Zarbock: Were you married then?

Blundell: No sir.

Zarbock: Alright so you now have a Bachelor’s degree and you’re ready to face the world. What happened?

Blundell: Went to North Dakota initially, met a guy up there that was starting churches at the Southern Baptist convention and looking for summer missionary volunteers. So I went to Fargo, North Dakota and helped there. Two years later he moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. I went to Bloomington and began help there with the work.

Zarbock: What kind of work did you do?

Blundell: Delivering home bible studies, going out where we would find small pockets of persons interested in starting a church, holding a bible study or doing a Sunday school. One of the three of us guys would go out there and either preach or do the bible study or lead in worship or whatever we might be able to do.

Zarbock: Now were you ordained?

Blundell: I was licensed at the time.

Zarbock: But you had not been to seminary?

Blundell: Not been to seminary yet, no sir.

Zarbock: How did you find it? Was I soul satisfying? I don’t mean to be funny with that word either.

Blundell: I guess it was. The fact that the conversion experience was so new and the opportunities to serve were so vivid made it very, very satisfying.

Zarbock: What did your parents think about this?

Blundell: They were caught I think pretty flat-footed. The wild country boy that fit pretty much the stereotypes of the good old boy suddenly had taken a turn, got religion and is nothing like the good old boy and what’s up with this. That’s okay but he sure is stranger than he used to be.

Zarbock: I would also suggest your friends might have looked at you in a different way.

Blundell: Oh absolutely. Basically everybody dropped away. Had two guys that stayed back and when I contacted them, then they were there, but everybody else wild man, you’re nuts, you’re off the deep end, stay away from me. You used to party.

Zarbock: Isn’t that kind of lonely?

Blundell: Not at the time, not at the time. Where I grew up was kind of a tight-knit town anyway. We moved into that neighborhood when I was in third grade. Not being from one of the local families and not having roots there, was always kind of on the outskirts, well accepted as an athlete and so forth and so on, but you just never could quite break into the inner circles.

Zarbock: Why did your parents move to that town?

Blundell: My dad had pretty much lived around there all of his married life after they left the service. They wanted to stay in that area, found a farm, one they could afford. He wanted to go back on a farm and so that’s why we ended up where we did. So I wasn’t really surprised about the dropping away. It didn't bother me at the time. Now I look back and wish that there had been more contact and I would have worked harder at that.

Zarbock: Let me bump you ahead. So you’ve been in North Dakota and later in Minnesota, you’re doing volunteer work as a licensed minister, licensed by the Baptist church, is that right?

Blundell: Yes sir.

Zarbock: And how did you decide to live life after that and where did you go?

Blundell: Well in Minnesota, I was working with a couple of fellows trying to start a Christian cable television network, totally different. It would be a revenue producing network, not a faith based network. We had some pretty far reaching tentacles. We ran up against a Jewish fellow that controlled basically the cable television industry in the twin cities. In the top levels of the organization of what went on and there began to be some friction between that gentleman and the two brothers trying to start this Christian T.V..

We had a lot of high level businessmen in the cities that were interested, supportive, business women as well. But things weren’t run terribly ethically in the organization we would later find out. So in Christmas time of ’81 I had gone home just to take a month off. There wasn’t much going on during December and was going to be back in January. Well they went bankrupt while I was home during the December time frame and so there wasn’t much reason to go back other than to pick my stuff up.

In that process of working through that and wondering what to do, God just said to me, ok, it’s time to go on with school. It was the last thing in the world I wanted to do, to go back into a classroom setting and start all over again. I spent the winter and I think in about July, early August of ’82, I went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. I drove down there and started off on that odyssey.

Zarbock: I’m going to ask you something terribly practical. Who paid the bill? I mean you have to have bread and butter and you’ve got to have enough money for tuition and then there are those things called books let alone shoes and socks.

Blundell: My ____ and faith was pretty big at the time.

Zarbock: That’s great armament.

Blundell: So I drove to Fort Worth with everything I owned in my Dodge Monaco and had a couple of friends there, looked them up. I spent some time, a couple of days staying with them until I found a place. I got a job caring for a quadriplegic guy that was going to school. He had been a volunteer missionary. He got injured.

Zarbock: How did you get tied up with him?

Blundell: Just happened to run into another friend and said hey, would you be interested in this. Gee, I hadn’t thought about it, but yeah, that was kind of interesting. I wouldn’t mind talking to Bob and so we met and talked and it felt like a good fit and so I was a personal attendant for Bob for a time so that’s how that started.

Zarbock: How was seminary?

Blundell: It was a challenge. The mind didn't want to read academics. The requirements of being a personal attendant for a handicapped individual, the rigors of academic life, all made it quite a challenge. I didn't enjoy the heat. The heat was right along with the other issues being a real detrimental factor. Made some good friends, friends that I still have today, faculty as well as students. So from one side of the experience, it was very difficult and from the other side of the experience it was very enriching.

Zarbock: Was it a three year curriculum?

Blundell: Well it took me five years. Like I said, I’m a slow student.

Zarbock: Well either that or you enjoy suffering.

Blundell: Well, probably both at the time.

Zarbock: Okay, but you finally finished seminary. Where did the Lord lead you?

Blundell: In July of ’87 during Labor Day of that year, I had met what a Southern Baptist calls Director of Missions, superintendent over a number of churches. He had come to school interviewing people who wanted to be bible vocational pastors. Well I wanted to go back to north central US I thought or the northwest and he was the first one that showed up, talked about some churches.

He said he would really like if I considered a certain one. So I did, talked to some folks. It felt like a good fit. I went Labor Day of ’87, preached for them and they gave us a call and I accepted the call.

Zarbock: Where was the place?

Blundell: A little place called Wolsey, South Dakota. It’s in the middle of nowhere in the southeastern quadrant of South Dakota, but a great little open country town, 470 people.

Zarbock: What was the church’s population?

Blundell: About 30. They were farmers, really faithful.

Zarbock: But these aren’t super rich people.

Blundell: Well, no.

Zarbock: They’re hard-working and they pay their bills, but how did you make it as a pastor with 30 people.

Blundell: Well, I worked for one of the members who was a farm manager with over 3000 acres and over 150 head of cattle. During the season when they needed extra help, I would help them. Having grown up on a farm, that made a good fit. It got me back in the agricultural side of life.

Zarbock: What kind of help was help?

Blundell: Field work.

Zarbock: Shoveling, pushing and pulling.

Blundell: Drive the tractor, plow, plant seed.

Zarbock: And you also used the word “we”.

Blundell: Yes, I was married. I met my wife at seminary.

Zarbock: Was she a seminary student?

Blundell: Yes, she was a seminary student working hard 20 hours for the Southern Baptist Mission Board under a missionary appointment from God. She was in the beginning stages of that appointment as a missionary nurse to God.

Zarbock: Where was she from?

Blundell: She’s from Texas. Her father was Director of Admissions and pastor in southeast Texas.

Zarbock: Well let me take you back? I keep interrupting you, but I’m just smitten with your story. There you are in this less than metropolitan center with a small rural church and you’re doing the best you can. Was your wife working?

Blundell: Yes she did. She worked with a drug alcoholic rehab home for youth part-time and I had a third job. I worked at Huron University which was a private Presbyterian school in Huron, South Dakota about 20 miles away from us, taught courses in religion having a religion major, so I taught religion.

Zarbock: The days went swiftly.

Blundell: Pretty much, not a lot of free time, a wonderful experience.

Zarbock: Why did you leave?

Blundell: Well little churches can develop their own mindset and in this church there were two families out of the six that were there that began to really voice some opposition and one family was leading the other family. They were not by far the strongest family in the church at all. They were causing a lot of problems for everybody in the church.

They disrupted portions of services and all kinds of things and finally one of the guys, Greg Larson, who was the chairman of the deacons, was the finance manager, owned a large dairy, he came to me and we sat around and talked awhile. He said this was not going to get any better. He said I needed to knock the dust off my feet and go on and they would deal with the knuckleheads and deal with this and work through this. It’s not getting better, but he said I was not going to be able to hang in there with this; they were going to see to that.

I said okay, really didn't want to wait, but after his counsel and looking at things and my wife making it pretty clear that she had about had it and talked to the other couples, they all felt like the best thing for the three strong families maybe keep the church intact, was to at least have us go so there was no longer anything that this family could pick at. We left and that family left too. Typical thing. But the church survived and today has paid off the mortgage and the building.

Zarbock: So you still maintain contact.

Blundell: Oh absolutely. During this next PCS…

Zarbock: What is PCS?

Blundell: Permanent Change of Station move, going to Alaska, hopefully go through South Dakota and see some of them.

Zarbock: Where did you go after you left?

Blundell: Moved back to Texas and my wife went as a nurse and got a job at a hospital where she worked while we were dating. I did childcare. We waited around for a while. After that job search, nothing really turning up. With a lot of help in industry as well as in the religious realm. Really felt like I still want to do bible ministry in areas where small churches were struggling, pastoring those kind of churches.

I was going to need a trade, a marketable trade. Something that somebody would say okay, there’s a certificate, you know how to do that. So we moved to Dallas, Texas and I went to aviation maintenance school and over 14 months, took the training and took federal license for aviation maintenance. Got ourselves set to go back. So we lived there in Dallas from ’89 til ’92, September of ’92 when a church in northwestern Minnesota called and said well you know we’ve been looking for a pastor for three years and your resume started on the bottom of the pile and finally made it to the top. Well that was real comforting. That was supposed to be a compliment, but I don’t know what it is.

So we talked and went up there and of course took that pastorate. It was bible vocational so while I did that, I was Christian school administrator and administrated the Christian school there for three years, pastored the church.

Zarbock: What size church?

Blundell: About 35 folks and during that time, I was looking for avenues to meet other people in the community because I was pretty solidly locked into Christian circles. Didn't have a lot of contacts outside of that and I was going to have to find something personally to break outside though to make contact with un-church persons so that we’d have an opportunity to go to the church and not steal cheap.

I started working with the _____ as a chaplain. That was a great fit. Loved that job as a volunteer. I was amazed that the federal government had a program that mandated that you had to tell folks religious truth. That was beyond my experience and my thought processes at the time that the federal government would have anything like that, especially the teenagers you know.

We were talking safe sex and this kind of thing, but nothing about morality and how to live a moral life and a Godly life and those kinds of things. Well the Civil Air Patrol provided that through their moral leadership training and the fact that they had a volunteer chaplain position that’s important to all civil air patrol squadrons. It was just amazing to me and I jumped on it and spent probably two and a half years with the squadron and during that time went over to Grand Force Air Force Base and talked with the base chaplain.

They had a chaplain’s day and I missed the day. I misread the calendar and showed up a week early so I had him all to myself and he took me around the installation. Met two reserve chaplains and they talked to me. They just got back from Kuwait. We had just based up Desert Storm. So they came back and they spent time with me and told me the ins and outs. We ate lunch together. This was a good thing.

I went back over and talked to the base chaplain again. He was ready to put me on the line. He put my name down and started talking deployment issues and that kind of thing. At the time the Air Force was deploying much more than the Army and for long periods of time. I looked at them and said that was great, but I didn't get married to sleep alone. So I thought I had to give this a little thought.

So I continued to do the volunteer thing. Went through and felt like I needed to begin to put more time into the church and my wife was working at the time as a nurse for the health clinic there. She was director for the chemotherapy department. So she was making a substantial income and basically providing the living. I felt like ok it was time to make the leap and see if we can’t figure out how to get the church growing. So we spent about the next 18 to 20 months doing that and just wanted to see that this was not where I was gifted and where I wanted to be.

Spent some time with regular commissions, a couple of good pastor friends, one a retired ____ class who was Army CID agent and another retired Air Force fellow, they were the chaplains in the area. So I trusted their counsel and we sat down and talked through issues. I just decided that this was probably the fit and I took a personality inventory and looked at that and it all came out very high on military things. In the back of my head, my dad’s words echoed, one of these days you’re going to know all this stuff.

I thought you know that’s a lousy thing cause here I am full circle. To backtrack while I was in college at Northwest Missouri State in the ROTC program, had a great experience. Ran into the Army bureaucracy and they thought I already signed the papers into the cadet program. So they started the hazing. Two other cadets published my research in the school paper under their bylines and I said that’s it. Not knowing enough at the time, I should have waved the flag and said that’s plagiarism, here’s my copies, but I walked in and just dropped my stuff and said that’s it, I’m out of here and watched them fumble through files until they figured out that I didn't exist in the files, that I hadn’t gotten there yet.

So the Army and I wanted to stay a long ways apart. So back to the story now, I called the Air Force and said I wanted to deployed that much, went down to the Marine recruiter in town and said hey look, I want to do this chaplaincy thing. He said great. He pulled his book and started going through it and said yeah, I got a call from the Navy recruiter here. Oh stop, Navy recruiter? Your chaplains like your medics are trained by the Navy. He said yeah, Navy does all of our professional training.

So you can’t guarantee me a land based kind of assignment. Oh no, you’d by floating. I said oh no, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t be on float. If I can’t see land, I’m not a good swimmer, don’t want to be out there, don’t want to be seasick, thank you very much. Ok, Air Force down, Marines and Navy down, ok Coast Guard, yeah that ones down. Back to the Army (laughter).

I walked over to the recruiter, he did the same thing. Called John Aliew and said it was great to hear from me and let him get the stuff off to me. I got that and had it within a week and put that stuff in process and by March of ’96, we had left Minnesota, moved to Kansas City back where my family was. I was working for a trucking firm, waiting for the process to go through and the orders showed up on the 15th of November, two days before my 38th birthday.

Cut off and I was ordered to active duty in the rank of captain. I was to report to Fort Jackson, South Carolina no later than 10 January ’97 to attend the officer chaplain basic course. So we were off on the current path of life.

Zarbock: Did you have children by this time?

Blundell: I had three boys.

Zarbock: You packed an awful lot of living in 38 years.

Blundell: (Laughter)

Zarbock: Do you have any questions?

BRINSFIELD: Would you please tell us where you were assigned after the basic course?

Blundell: Left the basic course at Fort Jackson and arrived directly at the 4th infantry Division in Texas, 404th Aviation Support Battalion. Spent 26 months in that battalion. Had a great mentor in Sergeant Major Charlie Adams. Charlie kept me out of a lot of problems and we’re close friends today.

Zarbock: How did he keep you out of problems, what kind of problems?

Blundell: Charlie was your typical sergeant major in most ways. He was not as vulgar, but he had the eye for detail and the eye for taking care of soldiers in the heart and hands to do that mission of taking care of soldiers. He took me in not long after I got there. He said to sit down and that I needed to know something. I thought oh man, here it comes. I’ve already stepped on a bomb and don’t know it.

You’ve walked into a landmine and don’t even know you’re in it. He said I’m going to lay that field out for your and I’ll help you navigate, but you need to know that the former chaplain and assistant in this unit filed sexual harassment charges on each other repeatedly. Well okay, I hadn’t stepped on a landmine, but I was in the field. The chaplain assistant was no longer in the battalion. So that was an okay thing. The chaplain was no longer in the chaplaincy.

We talked about that and what the perspective of most of the people in the battalion was concerning chaplains and assistants and who the helpers and hurters were and what to do with both. Then he would cross check with me periodically and I’d cross check with him. I’d say I’m thinking about this or that and if I shut the door, then everything dropped and I had his full attention. If he came into my office and shut the door, it was the same thing.

We did that so frequently and finally I looked at him and said this was very uncomfortable for me calling him sergeant major. You’re 54 years old, you’re almost as old as my father and right now you’re very much a father figure to me and I respect you highly as a sergeant major. For the 26th plus years you’ve put in so far so you’ve got my utter and complete respect and I know you’ll never do this because you won’t come across the barriers so I’m going to come across.

I realize it will be difficult for you, but I’d like for us to be on a first name basis. Well I can’t do that chaplain. I said, well sir, I would feel better doing that, it would help me to feel closer to you and to express to you the amount of trust. He said well I don’t know. I said well look as long as it’s in here. I understand protocol and we don’t need to do that out there, but when you and I are in this office we could do that. He pushed his chair back and thought about it and said what do you want.

I said I told you I feel very much like you’re a father and you’re protecting me here and you’ve taken care of me and helped me and I don’t want us to have to go through this formality all the time here because we’re pretty close friends. So I said I’d like us to act like close friends at least behind closed doors. We can maintain the façade out there and no one will ever know, but at least in here we’ll be friends.

He said, yeah, he understood that. That’s good, so from that time on, first name basis behind closed doors. If he came here and shut the door because he’d normally would start off and say chaplain even when he shut the door. But he came in and said Paul, I knew something was up and I needed to get both ears up.

BRINSFIELD: Remind me again, where you were?

Blundell: 404th.

BRINSFIELD: What was your ministry like there with the church?

Blundell: The 404th had stood up about 18 months before I got there as Aviation Support and as typical standup units, all the broken equipment and a lot of broken people.

Zarbock: What do you mean by standup unit?

Blundell: It was a new unit. I had been created 18 months before and they reached out and pulled people from here and here, took a couple of officers and said ok, you’re going to command here and that kind of thing. So everything we were doing was pretty much new to all of us and a lot of the soldiers were young. We had some fine NCO’s that were struggling with busted equipment, trying to put it together, trying to get parts. There were times when the military identifiers wouldn’t even show up in the system because the Department of the Army had not fully integrated us into things.

So periodically we would have a parts problem where we couldn’t get a part because we didn't exist in the parts bin so to speak. So initially there was a lot of getting used to this kind of military life. My dad listened to him and his brothers, World War II veterans, he was a Korean veteran so they were old Army. This was not the old Army and that was really throwing me.

The drug wasn’t quite beating where I thought it should be so I was misstepping a lot so I tried to figure out what soldiers needed, how to use the chaplaincy resources to meet those needs and then I was best at doing that. Spent a long time with the soldiers We had soldiers all over the place. With Aviation Unit supporting the division aviation assets, we had people at any given time of day on a duty date in at least seven different locations so my typical week was a circuit riding week going between those various small or medium size groups of people.

Zarbock: Why were they disbursed? Why would you have small groups?

Blundell: We didn't have any warehouses large enough to warehouse all of the parts for ground equipment and aviation equipment. So aviation parts were in one place. Ground equipment parts were another place. Lubricants were another place. The companies, the four companies headquarters were another place. The battalion headquarters were about three blocks away in another place, the barracks were about two blocks away in another place.

Zarbock: This is a spider web for heaven’s sake.

Blundell: It really is. We had other folks helping other Discom units because they needed our expertise in particular areas of parts management and so we had people there. And then we had people all the time in the field with one of the discom assets whether it be cooks or maintenance folks out there in the training area providing support to one of the discom.

BRINSFIELD: What is a Discom?

Blundell: Division Support Command. They’re the guys that take all the bullets etc out, prepare it, give it, provide it to the front line folks.

Zarbock: Was this a learning experience for you?

Blundell: Very much, very much. But having the battalion and having the aviation training, made it easy for me to understand what was going on, where it was going on, why it was going on and then to foresee what the next issue would be for them. That was a real help.

BRINSFIELD: You had a qualification in aviation aircraft maintenance, did you ever step in help the guys some?

Blundell: I stepped in, I didn't turn any wenches. They wanted me to, I said no, I don’t want to do that because the civilian side looks at it one way, the military looks at it another way and if there’s a problem, they’re going to get all of us because I’d been involved. But hey have you thought about that on this particular issue. Yes, no, maybe and sometimes we’d bash stuff around and see what we thought the possibilities were.

Zarbock: What was your next assignment after?

Blundell: The next tough assignment was the great Republic of South Korea and I got the premier assignment on the peninsula. I was assigned to the United Nations Security Command, joint security area. So I was battalion chaplain for 210 American soldiers, 190 Republic of Korea soldiers. We had within the footprint of a battalion providing for the protection for the Swiss and Sweden neutral commissions camps and so I provided ministry to all those folks as well as about 35 Korean civilian workers that worked in the joint security area doing various things and we conducted the tours.

We provided security for the tours, drove the tour buses, took the folks around, had the gift shop and so forth and had a lot of different folks there.

Zarbock: Was that your only deployment chaplain?

Blundell: Up until just a few months ago.

Zarbock: Tell us about that.

Blundell: The last deployment was Iraq.

BLINSFIELD: Yeah, before we go to Iraq, the South Korean deployment obviously we were doing ministry for the soldiers in that area, but you also conducted worship services and did you have any contact with Korean pastors?

Blundell: Yes, all those. Had a small chapel so Sunday services, Wednesday night services, Tuesday night or Thursday night bible study depending on what the needs were, my guys were providing live fire, if you will, life ammunition patrols in the DMZ so when they went up, it was a no joke deal and I would go on patrols with those scouts. We had a wonderful relationship with a village just outside Pamson-Gol which is a village inside the DMZ, another village outside. The pastor there did not speak English, but he wanted to help minister to the soldiers as well as understand the American soldiers, how I could help them.

There was also another camp south of their camp, so we kind of followed a little triangle there. Weekly we would have services in different places, had a Korean female that served as a interpreter for us. She was an English teacher so it provided a great cross-over for everyone. There was a Korean pastor in the JSA…

Zarbock: JSA is?

Blundell: Joint Security Area, that was our short terminology for Camp Liberty Bell. So there was a Korean pastor there. He pastored what was known as the Presbyterian church in Taesa-Dong. So he and I would have contact two or three times a week. He would come up Sunday night and do services for the Korean soldiers, the Kasusas, he would go up and do Sunday services at Taesa-Dong. We would go up and pray in the DMZ on the Bridge of No Return up on the security court. We’d go up and pray together quite frequently. I spoke very little Korean, just phrases and he spoke the same in English, phrases and words, but we had a great time.

BRINSFIELD: How did they feel about your going on patrols with them?

Blundell: They loved it. They loved it. It was one of those things, you had the chaplain going along, everything is going to be good and the other part was when I went up I would try to take stuff from the dining facility. Now we took meals up to them. They had it pretty good up there. I mean they were up there 10 days on the hill and every day they had three hots driven up to them. I would say sergeant if there is any ice cream, I’m going up later tonight or in the morning. You box it up for me and I’ll take it up to the guys. I had some cake and stuff and I’ll just send it up with you.

So I’d take it up with the guys and of course we had all the stuff the chaplain supplied, spend the evening with them, talk, you know, they had the same issues others guys were having over there. So they enjoyed it.

BRINSFIELD: They knew why they were there right, I mean they were committed to their mission.

Blundell: They didn't stay sir. There was a three week program they had to go through and one part of that program was about the first week they put them on a tour bus after they had gone through the briefing and I took them up north and here you are 2.1 kilometers from where you live and the North Koreans were right there, 77 feet away and that’s what you’re going to live with for the next year. When that siren goes off, you’ve got 5 minutes to be from there at Camp Moffis to here, fully loaded, fully clocked and ready to run.

There were some guys that simply couldn’t do it. They were few and far between especially the 11 Bravos. Those guys said yeah, this is why I came in and they were very serious about that.

BRINSFIELD: Now were you in Korea for a year?

Blundell: Yes sir.

BRINSFIELD: Where was your family?

Blundell: Family stayed in Fort Hoods.

BRINSFIELD: The fort was okay for them.

Blundell: It was a difficult year. We’d just adopted two children before I left so in one fashion it forced family integration for mom and daughter to go through without dad being there to interfere or support or referee and work through those issues. So I think probably our close personal friends were supportive. The rest of Fort Hood was kind of in the chaplaincy and in the battalion were kind of amazed that we would take that on just prior to going there, but we were aware of God’s presence through the whole thing. So in a fashion there was good support.

BRINSFIELD: And it was challenging.

Blundell: Yes it was.

BRINSFIELD: Okay, so you came home and what happened?

Blundell: Came back to Fort Hood, 1st Cavalry Division, 312th MI and spent about 32 months in that unit. Totally different perspective of the Army. Got to see the inside works of what the big Division Commanders and Assistant Division Commanders, seeing the stuff going on behind the scenes that the regular Joe has no idea why we’re doing this and nobody is really communicating effectively, yeah, there’s something back here that you really can’t see and I can’t tell you about it, but guess what, here’s why you need to be prepared.

Interesting ministry. Didn’t understand that an individual MI unit would be a lot like discom unit in the fact that each of my companies would support a brigade. I had a division Ace, I had the motor pool and so I had five companies, eight different sites that folks were throughout the day on any given day. They were more difficult to keep track of than the folks in the 404th because when they went to field and started doing their work, they didn't want you to blow their cover.

They’d get into a hiding position and they may be in there for three or four days and they’re pretty good about constructing their hiding positions. They can hide a vehicle and people can walk within two or three feet of it and never know they’re there. That’s the way they planned it. They wanted to be as close to the enemy as they can to get all the information they can and into real time as they can to relay that back in to the plan itself.

Zarbock: Tell us about your last deployment. Oh…what did I ask? (laughter)

Blundell: A lot packed in four months.

BRINSFIELD: When did you leave for Iraq?

Blundell: Left for Iraq on the 12th of February 2003. Had about three weeks to prepare for deployment.

BRINSFIELD: That was from Fort Hood.

Blundell: Yes sir, a Division Chaplain called me one afternoon and asked me what I was doing. Well you know, a division chaplain, I’m not doing anything (laughter). I was actually driving across from Fort Hood to the first campsite. He said, well I really need to talk to you real soon. I said, "ok, I could be there in about 10 minutes if that would be okay". He said that would be great.

BRINSFIELD: Was that Chaplain Carver?

Blundell: That was Chaplain Caldwell. My wife and I had talked over a month because since 9/11, the Camp had been getting ready to go, ready to go, ready to go and we stretched the horse out pretty far and finally the Division Commander had to say okay guys, obviously we’re not going to go. We’ve been playing this scenario for about 13 months, time to ring the horse in a little bit. Let’s slow this train down until we get some orders.

But the reality was that everyone could see that somewhere sometime the Army’s Heavy Division was going to get tapped and we were just waiting for it. So my wife and I talked and said, it’s coming, it’s coming, it’s coming, we know it’s coming, don’t know when. We just know it’s coming. If I’m here long enough, I’ll go. So this was the call and as I walked into his office I had no idea that this was the call. So he laid the thing out and asked me what I thought, how it would affect the family and what could he do to support.

We talked those issues and my last question was, "well sir when do I need to be over there" and he said "you report Tuesday". This was Wednesday afternoon so I had to clear the battalion on Thursday, in process on Friday, meet my assistant, get purchase orders to go out and buy all the stuff we were going to need to deploy. We did it on Saturday. Saturday night I downloaded my whole office into Tupperware containers, rough totes and took it all out of there and basically took it over to battalion and went through it. Took some stuff out and got it ready and Tuesday it went on the sea shipping containers to go to Bullock, Texas to be put on the ship.

So in five days all my stuff was gone. We spent then the next two and a half weeks doing the soldier readiness processing, shots, wills, all those kinds of things that you have to do before you leave, getting our vehicles ready to send them down the second week I was in the battalion. Then we did a marriage retreat and used the BSRF materials and did a single soldier program a couple of times and then we were ready to go in the wind.

We hit the ground in Kuwait city very early in the morning, probably just guessing somewhere around three in the morning. They were ready for us. There was a truck at the bottom of the ground. We walked out, went down both sides of the truck and they processed us into the country, processed us out of the United States, started pays and allotments that we were due in a combat zone. Made any adjustments, handed us back our ID’s and we boarded buses with the curtains on the windows pulled. MP’s there with armored humvee's with 50-caliber machine guns that would lead us into camp in Kuwait.

As first light broke we were going through northern Kuwait and just looking at the scenery, the camels, the desert, the nothing, wow, there’s a mud city it looks like. It almost looks modern and then out into the desert about 20 miles from the Iraqi Kuwait border to Camp Udairi. About I guess somewhere between 7:30 and 9:00 that morning, we stepped off the buses at Camp Udairi.

BRINSFIELD: Do you remember how to spell Udairi.

Blundell: U D A I R I

BRINSFIELD: What unit were you assigned to?

Blundell: 1st 227th Aviation Attack, 64 Apaches.

BRINSFIELD: When did you move into Iraq?

Blundell: We went across the first morning of the war. I believe the Operation Adaconda, the largest military convoy ever attempted. Adaconda II because Adaconda I was I believe in World War II. We had five 480 km desert travel to go and they gave us 48 hours to make that trip. That turned into a four day convoy, about a 48 hour convoy. We traveled highway on a secondary road down a course to more desert and trails.

BRINSFIELD: Were you hauling your Apaches or were they flying?

Blundell: The Apaches flew in. Everything else was ground transport. It was incredible sight when we got to the Iraqi border. The engineers the night before had blown up eight sites along there and destroyed the complexes at those areas. The engineers came in and filled the tank truck that was about 30 feet deep and maybe 30 feet wide and filled it full. There was about enough room for two or three people to go through there and you had vehicles probably 1000 meters or more across waiting to get through there and as deep as you could see forward and rear.

Once you got through there, it was okay, you guys were first because you’re this, you guys are third because you’re this and there were MP’s just basically doing the traffic control thing and people sitting on the side just waiting to be weighed into the line. Once we got up into Iraq and onto Highway 1, we had engineers reserves coming in with the March tugboats that they used and bridging boats and we were under sometimes four vehicles on a four man road in one direction as fast as we could go toward Bagdad.

It was 24 hour ops. We stopped one night outside of I think it was Iwa Jafa or ____ and we stayed there above the tigers right on the overpass, slept there and then stopping for fuel and so forth.

BRINSFIELD: When you got to Baghdad, you went into a nice camp.

Blundell: We didn't go to Baghdad, but yes we did, We went into a support area, Dogwood and we were there with the 1st of 227th was attached with the Aviation Regiment, V Corps out of Germany. We were over there and we were all there.

BRINSFIELD: Can you describe your ministry up there?

Blundell: We began visiting soldiers, encouraging soldiers. Three things stand out. The first I stayed in the enlisted tent with my assistant purposely because I was new to the unit and I wanted to be with the soldiers. Secondly I wasn’t going to be very far from my protection. They offered me to move into the colonel’s tent. They offered me to move into the officers’ tent. I said no, I said you don’t want him in here and I’m not going to be anywhere where he’s not cause he’s going to be looking for me if things go to pieces here and I’m not going to get him killed trying to find me and I’m not going to have you get killed trying to protect me. That’s his job and he knows how to do it because that’s what he’s trained to do and you’re not.

So I noticed there was a real concern about killing, about was this a just war. I was quite surprised and so one night I called and said I wanted to talk to the guys. I used the tent and said God sets up the systems of justice. The military is one of those systems of the government that God uses and is ordained to will the sword to bring judgment. Talk to them about that. And there were questions throughout that whole presentation and there was a visible relief afterwards.

The next was we were sitting splitting battalion and we were going to send the 35 platoon, the folks with the fuel and parts and bullets across through western Iraq and bring them into Dogwood from one direction and we were going to do up the other way. Those kids were pretty concerned because they were going through an area where no one was sure what was there and it was all the desert. We didn't think there’d be a lot of opposition.

We spent some time with them the night before and then when they pushed out that morning, I went out and did communion for them and out of the 35 soldiers in that platoon, 33 of them were in line for communion, Catholic, Protestant, it did not make any difference. They took it according to their own faith understanding and they were visibly encouraged by that opportunity. The following morning we set out the advanced party and I went over and prayed with those folks, spent some time with them. Out of about 50 advanced folks, had 16 folks jump out of vehicles.

We circled right up in the middle of the convoy and held hands and prayed as loudly as we could.

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