Interview with Gustaf H. Steinhilber, undated | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Interviewee: Steinhilber, Gustaf H. Interviewer: Zarbock, Paul and Brinsfield, John Date of Interview: 12/9/2003 Series: Military Chaplains Length
Introduction: My name is Paul Zarbock. I'm a staff person of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington's Randall Library. We're currently continuing the military chaplain's oral history project. Our co-host is Colonel retired Brinsfield who has been the soul of graciousness. We are interviewing Colonel Steinhilber whose role here at the school is what?
Steinhilber: I'm the Director of Training which means I'm responsible for all the in-house training that takes place at the US Army Chaplain's School.
Zarbock: Well it's a pleasure to meet you, sir.
Steinhilber: Nice meeting you.
Zarbock: I'm going to start off doing what I've done with other interviewees to ask what event or series of events or individual or series of individuals led you into the selection of the ministry as an occupation?
Steinhilber: I never had a defining moment. I always say I drifted into it. I grew up in a Swedish pietistic Lutheran church in Massachusetts. I went to summer camp for the wrong reasons. My girlfriend applied to go to the camp and I was chasing after her. I was in high school. She didn't get accepted. I applied late and got accepted because of my knowledge of photography and then spent years and years up at the camp. That sort of solidified my interest in the ministry.
Steinhilber: I continued through college, was an economics major in business but that wasn't satisfying and seemed to be just drifting through the ministry as nothing else really fascinated me. I like people, I like working with people, I like religion and so the two came together. I went from college onto seminary because I still wasn't sure what part of ministry I wanted to do, but nothing else was attractive.
Zarbock: What seminary did you attend?
Steinhilber: Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. The days that I went through college and seminary which was in the 60's going into the 70's, the standard track, well now it's ELCA Lutheran from New England, was you went to one of the Lutheran schools, you went to Absala, you went to Wagner, you went to Hartlick, you went to Gettysburg if you were a scholar or interested in history and then you went to the Gettysburg Seminary if you were a scholar and if you were going to be a parish minister, you went to Philadelphia and then from there you went back into New England.
Steinhilber: In my senior year of college, Chicago had brought together three or four smaller seminaries, created a big one in the south side of Chicago. It was at that time that everyone was talking about inner city work and God being there and all. That and the fact that the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago offered me a ton of money not to go to Philadelphia, I said "thanks, sign me up." And I'm an adventurous person so I went out to Chicago. In my third year of internship I said send me to the farthest reaches that you can and so they shipped me down to Texas for a year where a lot of them went to Iowa and places like that.
Steinhilber: So the spirit of adventure got me out to Chicago. The money also didn't hurt. So I graduated after three years at LSTC.
Zarbock: What year did you finish seminary?
Steinhilber: '72, but I had spent every summer at camp and so I did not have Clinical Pastoral Education and I took that in the fall of '72 so I'm technically a member of the class of '73, although I finished in '72, from '68 to '72.
Zarbock: And off you went to be...
Steinhilber: I went, after I finished CP in Boston in the fall of '72, the minister that ran the camp out in western Massachusetts in Pittsfield was very interested in an assistant. He had three girls and I worked very closely with him up at camp and I was tagged as the son he never had so he invited me up to work with him at Pittsfield, Massachusetts. I went up there for a couple of years and he was very, very controlling as a person and really wanted to do it all and a workaholic.
Steinhilber: So I spent two years with him, but at that point it was time to go out on my own so I accepted a call out to western Pennsylvania just outside of Pittsburgh, in a little place called Penn Hills. I was there for a year, almost two years when in the newspaper there was a blurb that said, "Have you ever thought of being an Army chaplain?" Well when I was growing up finishing high school and going to college, the Vietnam War was going on.
Steinhilber: I went to the doctor one day for an annual checkup and good old Dr. Shelby said to me, "Hank, I hope you never want to be a war hero." I said, "What?" He said I had a heart murmur and would never be in the military, he was going to have to make me 4F and was sorry if you really wanted to join and fight in Vietnam and all of that. It didn't matter one way or the other. I wasn't against the war, so I carried that all the way through college and seminary. I really wish I had kept it.
Steinhilber: Then when I was out in western Pennsylvania as a minister, there was a blurb in a ____ newspaper that said a person was coming out from the church to interview people to go into the military chaplaincy I had a small church and they said they couldn't pay really the minimum, but they'd allow me to do whatever I wanted to do on the side to get some extra money. One thing I did was sign up for a THM in pastoral counseling out at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Then when that blurb came out, my wife said that that would be interesting and if I was in Reserves, you could earn a little extra money.
Steinhilber: And I said I'd never be in the military because I was 4F and she said "Well why don't we just talk to them and see what we've got." So there were approximately 400 ministers out in western Pennsylvania, we get out for the interview. We got called up very quickly and got the first interview at 9:00. He'd flown up the night before. I was the only person to sign up for the interview, but he still came out.
Steinhilber: So we talked on and on and on all morning long. The health never came up. He wanted to know all sorts of things about me and I said I'd only been here a couple of years. I didn't think the bishop will release me. Finally after about two hours he asked where I had gone to college. I said "Absala". He said his daughter had gone there. I said "really?" And I said "is your daughter...?" His daughter was dating my very best friend our senior year when she was a freshmen so I knew exactly who she was.
Steinhilber: So we talked about how you have to go to the Chaplain School for four weeks, and then two weeks and two weeks over the summer and I wasn't impressed. Then he told me there was only a Reserve Unit out here for the Navy in Pittsburgh and I wasn't impressed and he didn't have active openings and I just thoroughly wasn't impressed so I just said "okay, fine". He did say could he keep my records and have permissions to talk to people and I said "sure, why not". So I threw everything away.
Steinhilber: Then the following springtime, almost a year later, I get this call as I'm sitting in the house that says, "Hank, Hank, it's Burt." And I said, "Ok, Burt who?" "Burt Gilbert" "Okay, how are you doing" "Good, I want you to take one." "One what?" He said, "An active duty opening. I've got it for Army and I want you to take one." I said, "Oh this is from before, I don't think so." He said, "Oh well call me if you change your mind" and my wife said that I seemed to be pretty interested, why didn't I call him back and we'd try it for three years.
Steinhilber: "I don't know dear." "Oh go ahead." So I did and I thought I'd never pass the physical. Of course I was in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention with the riots down on the south side, so I had not a lot of activity with them, but I had a little bit and I figured they had my picture somewhere and they'd find that out. Went through a physical under mystery because the congregation couldn't know. I remember standing very nervously before the last desk and this medical officer doing the usual stereotype (acts out stamping documents), and he looked at me and said, "What in the hell do you want."
Steinhilber: Now that's no way to speak to a minister, but he had no idea who I was. I said "How did I do." He said, "What do you mean how did you do, you passed, now get outta here. You're in the Army." I said ok and I got home and said to my wife "Hey I think I'm in the Army." About a month later I got orders and had to go get sworn in and the notary is signing away, not looking up at me and I'm standing like this with my hand up, ready to be sworn in and finally the notary says, "What are you doing?"
Steinhilber: I said, "I'm ready to be sworn in." He said, "Oh we always ignore that part of it. I just sign the paperwork. Here sign here, you're in the Army. I need you to go, I've got other things to do." It's been 26 and a half years, years from 3 years getting in as a fluke and there I am.
Zarbock: You're suggesting it wasn't an heroic event like the blaring of trumpets.
Steinhilber: No, you know you believe in Providence. I had some doors that I thought would never open for me.
Zarbock: So you are now a genuine chaplain in the United States Army. What was your rank?
Steinhilber: I came in as a Captain and then a month later, I was so dumb because I had no previous training I got a notice that was supposed to come first that said I was a First Lieutenant. So I said, this is great, I've been in the Army for six weeks and I went from Captain to Lieutenant. I think that's a demotion.
Steinhilber: They sent me orders. I took everything as gospel truth. My endorsing agent said they're going to put you in Belvoir, oh no we're going to put you here, oh no we're going to put you there, orders came through saying I was going to Fort Benning, Georgia. I said that's wonderful, "Hey Barb, we're going to Fort Benning, Georgia." And she asked the magical question "where's that" and I said "I have no idea."
Steinhilber: So I had to call up a recruiter in Pittsburgh and he was laughing away, take your finger, go to the western side of Georgia along the river all the way to Alabama, about two-thirds the way down and you'll find Fort Benning. "Congratulations son, you're in the Army." So I went to the Chaplain School, then went onto Fort Benning for almost three years.
Zarbock: What kind of units have you served?
Steinhilber: I've had a split career between active infantry units mechanized and otherwise and family life. I started at Fort Benning with AIT Infantry.
Steinhilber: AIT, Advanced Individual Training.
Steinhilber: They have done their basic combat training for about 7 or 8 weeks and then those who are going to be infantry people, infantry men would go down to Fort Benning and go through more training to be infantry. Then I was with the engineers for one year. Then I went to Germany, I was with a maintenance unit, general support for three and a half years. Then I was picked up for the Family Life Program and spent a year training at the University of Louisville down in Louisville, Kentucky and was assigned to Fort Knox.
Steinhilber: Then I had a three year utilization tour for my training. They gave me a Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy that was at Fort Rucker. The Army in its wisdom always sends me to the southeast or to Germany. Yeah, it's been back and forth. So I went there for three years and a funny thing occurred. When I got the orders to go to Fort Knox, I did the advance course first through the University of Louisville. They gave me an assignment to Fort Rucker, Alabama.
Steinhilber: So a couple of us met and we were told not to worry about our assignments, they would probably get changed around. I had one person, a Chaplain John Guest, who said to me, "Hey Hank, I'm going to Panama. You want to go to Panama?" I said "no", that "nothing happens in Panama". And he said, "Oh come on, switch with me." I said no, that "nothing happened in Panama", that if I went to Panama then I had to come back to the States, that I wanted to go to where there was some action.
Steinhilber: Well my assignment to Fort Rucker held up and John Guest was down there for one year and all hell broke loose to put it mildly down in Panama and I'm going, "I could have been there, I could have been there," but it didn't happen. After the Family Life Training, I was promoted to Major down at Fort Rucker...
Zarbock: Again for the record when you refer to Family Life Training, what do you mean by family life?
Steinhilber: The Army has a program where they take 10 chaplains out of the normal rotation and send them on to civilian schooling. When I went it was at the University of Louisville and also at Fort Knox. We had five of us at that time, they'd expanded it to ten. We took courses at the University of Louisville. We had an advisory from the university who was into marriage and family therapy, marriage and family education.
Steinhilber: We received a Master's from the University and we did our practical work at Fort Knox Family Life Center under an Army Marriage and Family person. That was Tom Smith at the time. So we came out of it on our way to an American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Accreditation and then because the Army paid for our education, got us the Master's, we went on to serve at a certain post.
Steinhilber: I did Fort Rucker. I was a post-wide asset. I helped train chaplains to strengthen them to marriage and family to pastoral counseling. I did a lot of workshops and education for all the units on the post and I did that for three years. So there were stories from there, but I'll spare you. But it was fun.
Zarbock: Give me one.
Steinhilber: It's very draining when you do the marriage and family intense. You had a lot of people coming in to see you and this had happened. I was about into my second year with this and you can feel the tiredness of it and the emotional drain. One afternoon it was about 2:00, I had had a huge lunch which I normally didn't have at that time. I sat into the chair and I could feel myself losing it. A couple came in and sat down. The man said, "I suppose you want to know why you're here." And I just nodded and I could see my eyes glazing over as he continued to tell his story. And then he said, "You probably want to hear from my wife now," and the best I could do was nod.
Steinhilber: So she told her story and then he said, he thought he had a solution to their problem and he laid it out. He looked at her and said, "What do you think, dear?" and I just kept nodding and I think I fell asleep during the session. But she kept going and talking and I don't think they cared if I was in the room or not. At the end of the session, he got up and thanked me profusely for the profoundness of being a marriage and family therapist and helping them. I think I took a nap for 15 minutes, I couldn't believe it (laughter). It's things like that that made it absolutely hysterically and worthwhile and rewarding.
Zarbock: Another success story.
Steinhilber: Right, another success story when you don't even think it's going to happen.
Zarbock: But there were tragedies connected with that at the same time.
Steinhilber: Oh yeah, I was asked by the Alabama courts if I could work with some of their offenders because of the lack of marriage and family of people in that part of Alabama because it's rural and enterprise which was where Fort Rucker was located and we had some talented people coming in.
Steinhilber: I started the THM before I came in the Army. I did one year at Pitt Theological Seminary and then they were gracious to me. They said take the year off, go into the Army, you only have three courses left. We have a variety of ways you can do them and then write your thesis and send it back to us and we'll allow you to continue. My last two years at Fort Benning I finished up the THM and my thesis was on waiting wives with husbands going to Korea.
Steinhilber: I did a lot of research and interviews etc. etc. Little did I realize that I had two prime volunteers in the Family Life Center, not assistants, but two ladies who were volunteering whose husbands came down on orders and both husbands had affairs while they were over in Korea. Again I was too close to them because they worked for me and the tragedy was there was nobody to really send them to. I desperately wanted to help them. They were great people. The husbands made a mistake, but I couldn't help. Again I was just too close. That was just a failure on my part, maybe not.
Steinhilber: There was another lady who committed suicide and there were several of us that were involved in talking with her. That is tough when you have somebody that you've been working with and despite all the head knowledge that says you can't save everybody, if they're committed they're going to and despite all the resources she barricaded herself into one of the family houses at Fort Rucker and then eventually did kill herself.
Steinhilber: You never forget that and your head knowledge can say it wasn't your fault. You did everything you could, but for the longest time you play the tapes back in your head of the conversations and you say "if only, if only." I think that's another tragedy that I'll always remember.
Zarbock: Remember the saddest words "it might have been."
Steinhilber: Going down to Fort Rucker, Mother Rucker as we used to call her, I flipped out of the family life mode and went back to Germany. In order to balance my family life time to get promoted I needed a combat maneuver brigade and there was nothing coming open. So I had a good friend in Washington who was running personnel and he'd say I'm going to put you in sweats again and a support battalion. And I'd say I didn't want that, I don't need that at all, that's not for me.
Steinhilber: So we went back and forth, and on and on and on. So finally he calls me up and says, "I have a deal for you. They need a Family Life Chaplain in Baumholder for one year. The general said he didn't need one so we pulled the Family Life Chaplain away and now he wants one back. So you're to be there for one year to fill in to validate the slot and then I can give you the Maneuver Brigade 2nd Brigade of the 8th Infantry Division at Baumholder."
Steinhilber: I said I would do it under one condition. This was unheard of. I said I wanted the brigade for three years. He said, "I can't give you the brigade for three years. Other people need brigades." I said, "Well then I'm not going." He said, "Okay." And I said, "By the way, how long are you going to be at your job?" He said "Four years, I just started." I said "We'll remember this conversation, won't we?" He said yeah, "I hear you." So I did the one year Family Life over in Baumholder. Not too eventful.
Steinhilber: Then I went with the 2nd Brigade of the 8th Infantry Division as Brigade Chaplain.
Zarbock: Why did you want three years?
Steinhilber: Because the Army values muddy boots time being with combat boots time, being with combat troops, being with the Army and I loved it. My days with the infantry and the support people, I wanted to get back with the infantry. I was a lot younger then. Let's get in there and do this thing. So that's why I wanted the three years to balance my family life time because I would be coming up for Lieutenant Colonel and I just wanted to have fun when I was young because I knew what I would be doing when I got to be my age, I'd have a desk and a pencil.
Steinhilber: So I was in there and got in with it and was very fortunate because E.P. Smith was the Brigade Commander who turned out to be the three star general that ran the Pacific Theater and just recently retired, so I had a good time with Colonel Smith. The funny part there was I also had the Lutheran service in Baumholder. At one point Sunday morning church was just like a staff meeting for the brigade. The commander wasn't Episcopalian, there was no Episcopalian church available so I was the only liturgical act in town. The ex-o went to the general Protestant service. The S1, the 2, the 3 and the 4 were either Episcopalians or Lutherans.
Steinhilber: The Headquarters Company commander didn't go, but the 1st Sergeant did, so it was almost a full staff meeting whenever we had church; after church, sitting around and having coffee and whatever goodies we had with it. E.P. was there for two years and a great person, really still a very good friend along with his wife, when he finished up I was at the Officers' Club with my wife and he was there with the new Brigade Commander and he saw me and said, "Hey Hank, get over here, get over here."
Steinhilber: And he said to Tony Coran who was going to take over the brigade, "Hey Tony, this is the chaplain, Hank Steinhilber, a great guy, yadda yadda yadda," and then Ed stopped and said, "Hey Tony, what religion are you?" and Tony said he was Episcopalian and Ed went into hysterics. He said, "Ah, good, good, good. You can keep him happy and honest during church." So I went from the Brigade Commander in church every Sunday, except to when we were in the field, to the 2nd Brigade Commander same thing in church every Sunday, but it was good. We had a good time with it.
Steinhilber: I did the normal brigade chaplain things. I had three chaplains underneath me, six when we went on maneuvers all over the place. Those were the days of reforging, return our forces to Germany where they pulled all of the soldiers back over and we went across northern Germany on reforger exercises. We went to Grafenvier and Holenfelds and a variety of places like that.
Steinhilber: An interesting story there was the OC, the observer controller for the chaplains at Holenfelds was really a terrible person. I could say a lot but I won't. He was in danger of not making promotion so he was going to make himself look good at the expense of the chaplains. Well Chaplain Eric Keller, who works for me here, was with me initially at Fort Rucker and then went to Baumholder with me and then after two years asked if he could go down to be at OC at Holenfelds and I said sure.
Steinhilber: So Eric would tip me off as to what was coming up at the final AAR, After Action Review of how you did fighting the war against the opposing force. The chaplains were always the last to be talked about. They way they did it was they did a two hour after action review and they stopped exactly at two hours. So as a chaplain you're sitting there with the rest of the staff and the job of the AAR is not to tell you how good you did, but mostly to tell you where you did wrong. So they're pretty brutal about it. So as chaplain you're sitting there praying that they run out of time before they get to you and you're always watching your clock because they stop even if they don't get to the last couple of people.
Steinhilber: Well Eric had tipped me off that there were two slides coming up on the chaplains. One said, "the good thing was he was out with his troops all the time and very visible." The second one "had a laundry list of staff" that wasn't really as accurate as it could have been of the negative and the OC was trying to make himself look good at my expense. So Eric tipped me off and said, "You better pray good and hard that they don't get to you."
Steinhilber: Well we were coming down to the wire and the OC in charge of the AAR said "Okay, well we're just about of time. What's the next slide, what have we got." Threw up the next slide and it said, "The chaplain is out with the troops and highly visible," and he said "That chaplain, good, really good, excellent, fantastic. Well we don't have time for anything more, ok, we're done."
Steinhilber: So he and his staff walked out and Ed Smith, fantastic person but very hard, that's why he made three star general, got up and said, "I can't believe this. The only person that got a commendable out of this entire AAR is the chaplain, the chaplain, you all ought to be ashamed of yourself." Then he said, "Hank, go out and have a good time, you earned it."
Zarbock: Have you ever thought of deistic intervention here?
Steinhilber: Oh you know, God takes care of fools and chaplains and I'm not telling you which one I am, probably both in my case. Some things like that were enjoyable. The other one that was funny is you know when you're with the infantry and they really want you out with the troops to be with the guys, etc., etc., and to do what they do. Well we had picked up Bradley Abrams tanks in the brigade.
Steinhilber: It was the springtime before I left to come back to the States in '92, summer of '92, they packed up the brigade, we went to Sardinia for a joint exercise with the British, oh I forget who, the Italians etc., etc. And we were down there for about a four or five day exercise. And you went down toward the beach from the base camps and along the way there was a tank that was broken down and it was standard Abrams tank, a nice M1.
Steinhilber: As the chaplain we would stop, my assistant and I, we'd say "how you doing", "oh we're waiting for a part and we want to get into the fight because the battle's about three miles down". So we talked to them, make sure they had food, laugh and joke with them, did they have any needs, etc., etc. This went from the first day to the second day and they said oh it was looking terrible, they cannabilized a part from us to make another tank go, we don't think we're going to get in the fight. So I would help cheer them up and say a prayer that they would get into the fight.
Steinhilber: This went on for about four days and finally the morning of the last battle, I went by to see them and they said "Chaplain, we're hot, we're up. They fixed us last night, we're going into the battle. Come on, crawl onto the tank, you're in charge." So I said, "Really?" and they said "Yeah, until we get to the battle, then you're getting out because we can't have you doing that." So I said, "This is fantastic, what do I do." They said not to worry, the driver would drive, and they would tell him what to do and I should just pretend that I was in charge.
Steinhilber: So I had the thing on etc., etc., and we go roaring down the road. And I'm yelling, "Faster, faster," so they're increasing the speed. We didn't think anything of it, we were having a great time. All of a sudden we pass by what happens to be the Brigade Commander along with a couple of other officers from other nations. Later on, Ed said to me, "No, that's our chaplain driving that tank," which he wasn't too happy, but he knew that it was my last exercise and of course as I went by him, I was rotating the turret. He did say to me, "Don't ever do that to me again, but I'm not going to say anything because I know it's your last exercise and you're heading back."
Steinhilber: So I had a great time with the infantry, but then I got called back to the school. I wanted to go with the V Corps Artillery and everything was working out nicely until they came back, the people that went back to the chaplain's assignment meetings, said no, you're going to the chaplain school; it was non-negotiable and they wouldn't tell me why.
Steinhilber: Well I came back to the Chaplain School and I ran into Doug Smith who was the ongoing Deputy Commandant and said, "Well if you want to know why you're here, it's because of me. We're doing a little consolidation. I know you have marriage and family therapy and pastoral counseling, two Master's. Instead of having two people in those Departments, we're going to have one and I needed you here." So I said "okay".
Steinhilber: So I spent three years at the School. I did that for one year. The second year I was in Combat Development and the third year I was the Evaluation and Standards type person. In the fall of my third year because I was a directorate head, I could sit in with the big boys at the meeting and George P. Ackovich, the Commandant back at _____ said at the end of the meeting, "Oh, yeah Hank, by the way I was up at the Chief's office and you're getting Division next summer," and that floored everybody.
Steinhilber: Everybody kept wondering what was happening. I didn't hear anything until the fall. I didn't hear anything into the wintertime. A good friend of mine was running personnel, but Greg said, "Hank, I don't do O6 assignments and I don't do Division chaplains. I have no idea what they're talking about and I can't ask." So I couldn't figure out what was going on. In the springtime, Chaplain so and so has been picked for this division, 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii. Nothing, nothing.
Steinhilber: We went all the way into May and finally another chaplain consoled me and said, "You and I are in the same position, they told me I was going to take a Division in Europe and I haven't heard anything and I don't know what's going on and we're due to leave in about 30-45 days." And I said, "Yeah, this is getting ridiculous." So I went to the Assistant Commandant and said, "Mel, I'm due to leave, the school is moving, I haven't heard anything."
Zarbock: Where was the school located?
Steinhilber: At Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. They were coming down here and I had done three years so I wouldn't join the school and Mel said, "You're right, this is a terrible injustice. I'm going to call up the Chief's office and let them know." And I thought oh boy, I'm toast. This is not going to be good, my career is flashing in front of me and in two seconds, down the drain it went.
Steinhilber: So he called up and started yelling at the Personnel Director and I can only imagine the Personnel Director saying, "Don't worry. We'll give Steinhilber an assignment. Thank you very much." The following day they said I was going down to Jackson, right here actually, I was going to be in charge of a Training Brigade. I thought that's not good for someone that's been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
Steinhilber: Because it's really a Major's job and that Brigade was being stripped out. It normally had seven Battalions to it which meant you couldn't put a Lieutenant Colonel in it, they were going down to four. So my friend consoled me and said "Hank, I haven't heard anything, but I'm not going to open my mouth after what happened to you. Absolutely no way, this is terrible, what an injustice." Well I got letters from Fort Jackson saying congratulations, welcome, this is wonderful, this is great.
Steinhilber: Then the Commandant said to me, "You're going to Fort Hood on a TDY, temporary duty, for two weeks, aren't you?" I told him "yeah". He said, "Didn't you buy a house at Fort Jackson?" I told him no. He said, "I don't want you to be in touch with Jackson, don't say anything to anybody, go on your TDY, you may not be going there." I said "really" and he said "yeah", but he couldn't tell me anymore.
Steinhilber: So I said okay and came back two weeks later and as I was coming in, my daughter who was sitting up in the window because it was the first part of June with the window open saying "Hey Dad, we're going back to Germany, call the Commandant immediately." So I called him up and he said he didn't have any particulars, they wanted me in Germany immediately and how quickly could I be there. I said three weeks and I was gone.
Steinhilber: So I got over there and the Chief of Staff said to me, "I guess you want to know what happened, don't you." I said, "Yeah, it's kind of a mystery." He said "Well they gave me this name of a chaplain to come over here," and he told me the name and it was my friend who was consoling me. And they said he didn't have any brigade time. He'd never been in Europe. "When I said we need to look for another one, your two friends, the Division Chaplain and the community chaplain, 'I know who you want'. I picked up your file and it said three years 2nd Brigade 8th Infantry Division. That was my old division. When you were Brigade Chaplain, I was working on one of the Brigade Staffs. So I wanted you immediately."
Steinhilber: Later I found out that my friend at the School was given an assignment at Fort Jackson to take over a training brigade so he got pulled off of his assignment, I took his assignment, he got my assignment. He later complained and didn't come down here, but the craziest things happen. You know it's just God or Providence, call it what you want.
Steinhilber: One of the things when I was at the school for those three years, I don't like to wear coats and I never have my sleeves down unless I'm out on the field. Everybody knows that. There were four Lieutenant Colonels raided by the Deputy Commandant. The Deputy Commandant thought I was a hoot because I never wore my sleeves down and I never wore coats and we were at Fort Monmouth New Jersey.
Steinhilber: I had a heated garage. I'd warm the car up and drove, it was a one minute walk from the parking lot to my office. I never needed one. I never left the office. One day he was walking down, this was probably in January, he was walking down, I was walking up, looks under my hands with an orange in my right hand. Without batting an eyelash, I decided to have some fun. I threw the orange up, saluted him, walked past him, and put my eyes up and caught the orange and he turned around and looked at me and said, "My God, he doesn't have his coat on in January and he can salute while tossing an orange in the air."
Zarbock: Reputations have been built on less than that.
Steinhilber: Yes and reputations I think in some ways can carry you. Out of the four people that he rated, I was the only one to get a top lock on that rating. So between my position, his top lock, getting the Division...
Zarbock: Excuse me, what was that phrase you used?
Steinhilber: The top lock on the rating scheme on my officer efficiency report for the year, he put me as number one of the four and he didn't have a lot of contact with us. So I really think reputation and just seeing us externally was a part of that because he never really interacted with the four of us to any great extent.
Steinhilber: I went to the Division and at the end of my Division time, 18 months, well when I was there, that's when the Balkans broke loose and remember the story about Panama, not going anywhere. I missed Grenada, I missed Somalia, I missed everything. I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time. My wife says I was in the right place at the right time and the same thing happened. Everything flowed.
Steinhilber: Oh Desert Storm, let me back up. When I was in Europe with the 2nd Brigade, we were the only brigade not to go to Desert Storm. Well there might have been another one of bits and pieces. We guarded Frankfurt and Stuttgart so I never went to Desert Storm. People would laugh at me because they'd look at my uniform and see like two little rows of ribbons while everybody else had started to creep up and up and up from the places you'd been, well I went there and here it was the same thing again.
Steinhilber: It was the other Division that went to the Balkans, 1st Armored Division that fall. I think it was actually November of '95 when I went back. I had the weirdest time in the division because we were simply supporting Europe and the other division. I gave up a couple of Chaplains, a couple of assistants. The General, Monte Miggs who later became four star in charge of Europe and all, Monte was the two star. He was not around a lot. I saw him and we had a soldier killed and he came back up from the Balkans to go to the funerals.
Steinhilber: What ended up happening was that 1st Armored Division was going out November -December of '96. I was just finishing out my Division time. It's only 18 months and I said at least I'll get six weeks when Monte called me in and said, "Hank, I'm not taking you down. It's silly for me to have you in the Balkans for six weeks. I'm going to swap you out. You already know you're going up to the USAREUR headquarters..."
Zarbock: The what...
Steinhilber: United States Army Europe Headquarters in Heidelberg to work on the USAREUR staff for the chaplains. He said, "Don't worry. I'll get you down to the Balkans somehow."
Zarbock: Let me probe a minute. Why would a two star general leave the Balkans, come back to Germany to attend a funeral?
Steinhilber: Oh, he was not the prime two star down there. He was only in the support role working around the Balkans. I think it was General Nash that was the two star commander for the 1st Armored Division that went down. General Miggs was the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division and they were taking the generals down to show them, they were advisors' roles. They were in and out of the Balkans.
Steinhilber: When I say the Balkans, we had Croatia at that time, split over in Croatia, Slovanski Brod in Croatia, ___ Hungary, our one star General who is now a four star general B. B. Bell who was in charge of Hungary, that whole area. Then down in Bosnia Herzegovina in Tuzla was where the American sector was.
Zarbock: But who was the decedent? Why was the decedent such an important...?
Steinhilber: Oh, that's a military tradition, that if somebody dies in your unit, it's a big thing and the general unless he is really tied up, goes there and of course when the Balkans started flowing, money started flowing and the general had planes and helicopters at his disposal to move around without much of a problem. So I'd link up with him with a helicopter. He'd fly up to Germany, we'd link up with a helicopter and then he'd go back off again.
Zarbock: So it was the culture of military courtesy then?
Steinhilber: Yes, that they would do that, but that was the major time I saw him.
Brinsfield: May I ask you a couple of detailed questions sir?
Brinsfield: You were the division chaplain for the 3rd ID.
Steinhilber: And later in April it turned into 1st Infantry Division. They didn't do anything as far as soldiers moving. They just simply changed the colors.
Brinsfield: Ok, good. Could I ask you a little bit, to expand this just a little bit. You did end up in the Balkans?
Brinsfield: And what was the organization there? Did you go down as a Division Chaplain?
Steinhilber: I went down to visit as a Division Chaplain compliments of the other Division who called me in because he thought I would be going down there. So I did go down for a visit, spent the first night at Zetra Stadium which was the morgue and across from the killing fields to the cemetery, saw what it was like. Then Donna Weddle came in to take over Division, she went down and I went to USAREUR headquarters.
Steinhilber: They put me in charge of operations. Well I wasn't for the first six months. I was assistant head of operations which meant we were in charge of the religious support for all of the downrange areas. We were to make sure coverage would come about either from organic units that flowed down and then also reserve units that came from the States and also I had responsibility to make sure that religious coverage was still in Europe at the time.
Brinsfield: When Chaplain Weddle came down, she was the Division Chaplain in the 1st Infantry Division?
Steinhilber: Yes. It changed over in April and she came down in December. She took over from me and then shortly thereafter, the Division...
Brinsfield: So she went in right behind the 1st Armored Division?
Steinhilber: Right and that was Scott McCrystal with the 1st Armored Division.
Brinsfield: Okay, very good. Could you describe please some of the religious support missions the chaplains were doing? The simple question is what were chaplains doing there?
Steinhilber: Okay, the Americans had very much of a policy that we take care of our own and we do not get involved with the local population. There was a lot of if you moved anywhere, you had to go with a four up armored humvee convoy so it became very difficult. So they became base camp chaplains. When we first went down, there was I think, and I can't say for exact sure, eight different bases around there.
Steinhilber: You had Tuzla which had the main part. You had one that was close by that had the airfield. But then you had I think three or four outlying base camps. The chaplains became base camp ministers. The soldiers couldn't go out except on patrol. The chaplains didn't go out with them. There was not a lot of contact with the other nations. There wasn't a lot of contact with the local populace so it became a base camp ministry.
Steinhilber: How do you keep morale up? Very difficult in the wintertime when it's cold and foggy. Of course they still burn a lot of coal so you have that hanging over from Thanksgiving to Christmas. So they had a pretty good base camp ministry. See I went to some of the base camps, but I did a lot out of Tuzla. There it was base camp ministry, bible studies, worship services, seeing the people, ministry of presents, but there also you became a tour guide because the Balkans became the hottest act in town and everybody wanted to be a part of it.
Brinsfield: Now a few minutes ago just to refresh my memory, you were speaking of Zetra Stadium. That's in Sarajevo.
Steinhilber: That's in Sarajevo. My first time I went down to Sarajevo because although the Americans were in Tuzla and the British were over in another sector and the French actually controlled Sarajevo and Sarajevo was where the first S4 chaplain, S4 Stabilization Force chaplain was located along with the Stabilization Force Commander who I don't remember in the early years who they were because I was concentrating more on the Americans.
Steinhilber: So we had chaplains at Slovanski Brod, we had them in Tezar, Hungary which was the staging base. A unit would come out of Germany, go to Tezar, Hungary, an old Russian MIG base with the MIGs still out in front of the Headquarters Building mounted as displays. They would go down there. They would be given any other thing that they needed, a hot shower, meals, upload ammunition and then from there we'd flow across the Sava River, across the bridge and then go into the countryside.
Brinsfield: In military parlance then, this was SFOR-1.
Steinhilber: I think it was the beginning. We also had IFOR which really was crazy because no one knew about it, what was going on down there so I think the 1st Armored Division had part of IFOR and then went to SFOR.
Zarbock: And IFOR stands for?
Steinhilber: Implementation Force of the Dayton accord. So they were the ones that said ok, you can implement the Dayton Accord, the French went in, the British went in, the Americans went in to separate the warring factions.
Brinsfield: Are you aware of very much mutual support that the British and French chaplains might have given to Americans or vice versa?
Steinhilber: Yeah, that came about for me when I took over as SFOR a few years later. The Americans had had a policy of no cooperation. We take care of our own, we don't even acknowledge them. And that was I think in fairness to Scott McCrystal, who was the first one, that was simply because everything was new, everybody was just in there, it was very difficult to move around the corner.
Steinhilber: Later on as SFOR-2 came about and the years rolled on, that became a very hot topic because some of the chaplains began to say that we didn't need the four vehicle convoys anymore, we're a stabilization force that's been stabilized, we're religious leaders, why can't we go out and meet with the local and help out and meet with our other neighbors. It really was the tenor of the Commander and the Chaplain.
Steinhilber: For instance Mike Height had very much of an "oh no, we don't go out of the compound, we take care of our own" attitude. Larry Jim Goodwell who was in for a while, Chaplain Goodwell had more of an openness, but was hampered on that. Later chaplains were more open to moving about the countryside and working with orphanages etc., etc.
Steinhilber: I think at that point it was an open debate amongst the chaplains of what we could do and what we couldn't do, where could we go with all of this.
Brinsfield: How about logistics or did the chaplains get enough supplies to do their jobs?
Steinhilber: Yes, more than enough. Everybody was sending supplies down, families, church organizations would send supplies, bibles. It really was an attitude that everybody wanted to become a part of the Balkans mission. It was the biggest thing since Desert Storm, a couple of other minor skirmishes, but that was the big one. Again the attitude was there so much bloodshed and fighting between the Serbs and the Muslims that we really wanted to get in there and help out and show them that there's a lot of sentiment for the folks and the country and what had happened down there. So supplies were never a problem.
Brinsfield: Can you describe your ministry USAREUR reports please?
Steinhilber: Okay, yeah again I was in charge of all of the downrange operations and religious support which meant I would troubleshoot because we built the document, and I had a part in it, building the document that said in Slovanski-Brod we need to have so many mechanics, so many transportation people. Then they would say to me what are we going to do about chaplain coverage because we need a Protestant and a Catholic to have true services.
Steinhilber: Then Hungary became the major staging base. A reserve chaplain would show up and so I would move my active duty chaplains from Europe around the theater. Eventually Slovanski Brod closed and then we worked with the 19th _____ Jim Robinson and his group and Chuck Howell. Their chaplains were going down operating the ports _____, Nicaragua. They arrived when the war expanded and we went out at Macedonia, went over to Kosovo. So I had Kosovo added to my plate on that one.
Steinhilber: So I had Catholic coverage which was a trip because you had Catholic priests and sometimes I'd have to run them down out of Heidelberg to go different places. Enough Protestants to cover the place, but not a lot of Catholics. They were hard to find.
Brinsfield: Can you describe the other folks on the staff at USAREUR? Who was the USAREUR chaplain and so forth?
Steinhilber: Chaplain Hicks was the USAREUR chaplain and that's where I really got to know him.
Zarbock: I'm sorry...
Steinhilber: Chaplain Dave Hicks who's now the Chief of Chaplains was the USAREUR chaplain in Heidelberg and Jim Jagowski was the Deputy and Phil Hill was in for a while and I had myself, Chaplain Ray Bailey doing the Operations and he was replaced by Ken Ratliff. I also had the European part and so I had Sonya Thompson for a while and then I had Lamar Griffin. Those were my principal players.
Steinhilber: Also on the coverage, let me expand that, I also had Islamic coverage and Jewish coverage and Orthodox coverage because you had to cover major faith groups. Pete Bakdis was at an aviation brigade and what Pete did and he's here on the staff now, I got all my people to come back here with me, what Pete did was he worked it out with his commander and me so that once a month he would go down to Tuzla and have an Orthodox service.
Zarbock: This is tape II, Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Steinhilber: We were talking about religious coverage downrange. So I had Pete Bakdis do the Orthodox service for me and his commander was very gracious in allowing Pete to do that. I also had to have Islamic coverage and at that time the Islamic chaplains were just coming in to the military and Europe didn't have one. I was fortunate toward the end of my time there to get one to come over, but I had to insure that each and every area, each battalion that the chaplain made provisions for the Islamic soldiers.
Steinhilber: Traditionally you'd find one or two or three or four, really not very many, and really what they needed was a prayer room, a place they could go and pray, the time off again around Ramadan and some of the other feasts. Interestingly I also had the Jewish coverage and in Europe we had one Jewish chaplain and that was Ben Romer. Ben was with the Signal Brigade right over in Manheim next to Heidelberg.
Steinhilber: Ben's Commander was fantastic. He loaded Ben down with all the latest electronic wizardry going. Ben had a computer that was better than anybody else's in Europe. So what Ben did was, we worked it out so that Ben would go down once a month to Tuzla and all of the Jewish personnel and there was about 15 to 20 of them in the theater, the different base camps, would then come in on Friday, spend Friday night with the service and then Saturday would convoy back up to their base camp.
Steinhilber: You have to remember for them to come down, to put together a four vehicle convoy, that's not easy because you're talking about at least eight people in the convoy coming down and I think everybody had to have weapons and ammunition. I think they had to have a squad automatic weapon called a SAW which is an M-16 in automatic model. They had a lot of requirements on that. So if you took someone from a base camp and they traveled down to Tuzla, then they had to stay there the night and of course you had to get accommodations for them down there and meals and all of that and then they had to go up the following day, so it was not an easy task to do that for the Jewish personnel.
Steinhilber: Commanders and chaplains work together to make it happen. What Ben did was Ben linked everybody in his Jewish fold on the computer so Ben would very simply send out an email message saying this is the Sunday I'm coming down, pick a month and therefore make sure you come in for Friday night and go home on Saturday and it worked well, really well, because Ben would always put me on the cc: line, probably the only non-Jewish person to get the Rabbi's message.
Zarbock: What about dietary restrictions or demands?
Steinhilber: Very easily done down there because the MRE's...
Zarbock: I'm sorry, years from now...
Steinhilber: Oh, MRE's, Meals Ready to Eat which the soldiers basically don't like as they're packaged food. It was rough when they first went in with IFOR because they didn't have kitchens set up and things like that in base camps, although they took over a variety of places. For instance Tuzla was an old Russian MIG base again and so you had several hard buildings already up. Very quickly they began to ferry in supplies with the Air Force to get hot meals. If you have a hot meal and you're Jewish, you can pick and choose, unless you're Orthodox Jewish, which means keeping kosher. Most don't join the military because it really is way too difficult to do.
Brinsfield: But basically the meals ready to eat that met Jewish qualifications would also meet Muslim qualifications.
Steinhilber: Right because they have the vegetarian ones. So there's an airbase in Heidelberg, a small one, where the generals fly around on C-12's which are the small seven seating airplanes and I found early on because I was running around the Balkans, I could get on this so I could build myself an itinerary and fly myself around the Balkans which I did with these small planes. Of course the pilots and copilots always had open cockpits.
Steinhilber: My favorite expression is when the copilot would turn to me. This happened about seven times and said, "Sir, we have a problem, see that coupling out there. That's not supposed to be like that." So I'd say, "Well are we going to land?" Well I found out that they loaded up fuel in Heidelberg and they rev the engines up and they take off, but landing is a different story. You go through the cornfields. So we had to go down through Stuttgart and land there and have it repaired and then continue on.
Steinhilber: I had about seven of those with that famous phrase that ran up my back, "sir, we have a problem." But anyhow I ran Ben down once a month and he would meet with the gang. It worked out beautifully. It was great Jewish coverage. When Kosovo became stabilized and we had a Jewish congregation over in Kosovo, I would alternate him down. He'd go through twice a month, once down there and once over to Kosovo, because there was little difference.
Steinhilber: You couldn't fly into Kosovo. You had to fly into Macedonia and then drive up in a convoy. Really linked them together for Passover. He did the first night of Passover twice, which was quite a feat. He got into Macedonia and said that this was the first night of Passover and they said oh, and he said "Listen to me, I'm the Rabbi, it's the first night of Passover," "Oh yes Rabbi, good to see you" (laughter) because we couldn't get him to two places. We flew him down to Bosnia, then to Tuzla and then we flew him on over to Macedonia and got him there for the second day.
Steinhilber: Ben was getting out of the Army and said to me, "Hank, I can't finish this off, I'm getting out in February and the new guy wasn't due in." I said "Ben, that's very good. Unfortunately you're not getting out of the Army, I'm going to ask the chief to extend you." He said, "That's okay, I love what I'm doing here, but for my congregation, I can't say to them, I'm going to extend. But if I came to them and told them the Army told me I'm extending, then okay, there's nothing we can do about it, they're patriotic."
Steinhilber: So I finished up there and everything was going well until late winter, December of '98 or January of '99. What had happened was that we were filling the SFOR chaplain's slot in Sarajevo. That was a NATO slot that was filled with Army, Air Force, Navy six months on a rotating basis, and they would be responsible for the entire theater, the Americans, Russians up there, the Polish, the Nordic brigade which is the Danes, the Fins, etc., and then also the French and the Spanish and the British and the Dutch and things like that. They were out at Sarajevo.
Steinhilber: I would go down and visit because I also had a chaplain in Sarajevo. Well we had had a reserve chaplain, an O-6, (it's a colonel) who spent a little bit too much time down there, went for about nine months because his replacement couldn't come in and really didn't endear himself to the Chief of Chaplains who was Don Shay at that time. When Don asked him the question "Well how do you do ministry," this is the guy was an ELCA Lutheran said, "I just let the spirit guide me."
Steinhilber: Well the spirit can guide you, but you've got to have a little bit more around the spirit in order to make it happen, a little more intentionality. So Don said the next time we get asked for this, we're going to send in somebody from active. So I remember going in to the current operations center and the O-6 in charge of it was a really great guy, great chaplain supportive, but really hilarious. So up one evening flashed the requirement O-6 Army chaplain to go to Sarajevo six months.
Steinhilber: So he looked at that, looked at me and said, "Are you going?" And I said, "I'm not going, we don't have an O-6 to go." He looked at me closely and said, "Jeez, the last time I knew an eagle which you have on your collar, it was an O-6. I think you should go." I said no, no, I was too important running this show, I couldn't go and we were going to pass it back to the Chief of Chaplains office. So we passed it back to Don Shay and his people. We thought everything was wonderful until Dave Hicks said that he needed to talk to me.
Steinhilber: So he called me into his office and he told me that Don Shay had made a selection for the next SFOR chaplain. This was I think the end of January, starting off in March. I said that was great, who was it. He said you, I said who, you, I said me, you. We did that about three times. I said "Nooooo" and he said "Yeaaaaaaaa." So I packed my bags and turned the office over to Ken Radliffe and went down to Sarajevo and the man in charge was now four star general Monte Miggs.
Steinhilber: We were walking across the open courtyard down there in the main compound and Miggs was walking along coming up and we were just a little bit off to the side and he spotted me and did what drove his security people nuts. "Hank!" And he broke out of the ranks and was walking over to me and the security people had no idea who I was and of course they had the sharpshooter rifles and bodyguards around him and went over to him and then saw that he and I were old friends and that I was a chaplain and they backed off.
Zarbock: Were there hostilities going on in Sarajevo?
Steinhilber: There was not a lot of hostilities from the war in factions. There was a lot from the Orthodox side, a lot of foot dragging. In Sarajevo as you went out of Sarajevo and over into the...their part of Sarajevo, they put all the signs in Cyrillic language to make it difficult to read. They did things like that. There were a lot of thugs and thievery and black marketing.
Steinhilber: I think you would probably may be taunted by a crowd, but they were really harmless. It was more bandits and thugs and black marketers that caused more problems than anything else.
Brinsfield: Just for clarification please. General Miggs by this time, was he a lieutenant general yet?
Steinhilber: Four star. He went very quickly from a two star...
Brinsfield: And he was commanding not only SFOR but...
Steinhilber: Everything, everything in the S4, he had all of the nations under him.
Brinsfield: And where was it that you met him first?
Steinhilber: In the compound at Sarajevo. There were three hotels that were down there. It was the spa area of Sarajevo so when the rich and famous when to Sarajevo, they went over to the spa area and were at the luxury hotels and sat in the warm waters which are still there bubbling out. It was an old Orthodox stronghold that the Muslims tried to take off of the airport and so there were a lot of rooms, the hotels were all shot up. I would sit on my balcony and see the bullet holes where they went right across the top of it. But they got the lights going and the heat on and things were fine.
Steinhilber: So I went down to be with him on that and spent six months. I was lucky, I had the summer. He defined, Monte Miggs is a very strange person religiously. He's Presbyterian but not very religious and not much of a churchgoer. So his mandate to me was first of all take care of his troops and take care of my chaplains and then beyond that I could do what I wanted, don't get myself in trouble or anything else.
Steinhilber: So I was primarily chaplain to the staff although I did coordinate across the Balkans with the different chaplains. I was very fortunate. They gave me an assistant. I called up Roger Able from the Chief's office who did that type of tasking. I said, "Roger, we've been friends for years. Give me a good assistant or I'll hunt you down like a dirty dog and make you pay," and he gave me a great assistant, Staff Sergeant Tawanda Cherry.
Zarbock: I'm sorry, the name again.
Steinhilber: Staff Sergeant Tawanda Cherry, Staff Sergeant Cherry. We were lucky, we had the summer rotation. The Balkans in the winter is miserable. Long nights, short days, fog, etc. The summertime, long days, warm days, cool nights, we had a vehicle, we had free roam to go wherever we wanted within the theater. We had no problems whatsoever. So we visited all the chaplains.
Steinhilber: I had over 50 chaplains when I started representing 38 nations. They were broken up into MD's Multinational Divisions. There were three of them, Multinational Division North which had the Americans in charge out of Tuzla, the Brits had Multinational Division Northwest, I hope that's what it was called, out of their headquarters, and then the French had Multinational Division Southeast which was out of Sarajevo. So we had the French being in charge of us.
Steinhilber: I had a bunch of chaplains in Sarajevo. There was a German hospital which had two German chaplains and one German chaplain I found out was the Assistant SFOR chaplain so he was in for three months and then another one came in. They were great. When I was on the road, he took care of things there.
Steinhilber: In Sarajevo was the headquarters contingency. So there was a Dutch contingency of soldiers to take care of the Dutch out in the field and all of the supplies came through Sarajevo and so I had the main Dutch chaplain there. A variety of things like that made it pleasurable to be around. I traveled all over. We were out on the road almost all the time visiting and coordinating.
Steinhilber: A couple things I tried to do -- I tried to get the main chaplain of the force that was in charge of the multinational division to be a liaison or conduit to me of reports of information. The Brits were great. Mark Jones was a godsend. He was the British chaplain and he understood about reports because the British think a lot like the Americans do. Mark was fine with that. When I went to the Americans they said there was nobody else around them and I said but they had the Nordic brigade, you have the Russians, "Oh, they don't count, we don't deal with them." I said, "I need you to be responsible and find out who's in theater." So it was pulling teeth.
Steinhilber: Again the Americans were still trying to figure out how much you rub shoulders with other nations, how much you get involved with the populace. This was brand new for them. The French, they were, sounds stereotypic, but they were the toughest because it was "Oh, we don't work for you, we don't work for you." And I said, "No, but I need the reports to come up to me." I tried to convince them to run the reports from the battalion chaplains through them to me so I could pass them on to General Miggs.
Zarbock: What data were being collected on these forms?
Steinhilber: I wanted to know how many church services you were doing and what special events. My purpose was not so much to get a bunch of numbers in front of General Miggs, that was not my purpose. My purpose was to get the special things chaplains were doing that made them vital to the command and enhance their role there. By giving it to General Miggs who I knew read the reports, he would be able if I said, "Sir, the French general is coming up. Would you please talk to him about...?"
Steinhilber: But they had a hard concept, "Oh, we don't like reports, oh these are too hard to do." Finally I was able to get them together to tag them to be responsible to get some of the reports up. They came up spotty. Again one of the problems was that I was there for six months. Then the next person came in and although I briefed him and told him everything, if he didn't like it, it didn't happen.
Steinhilber: The other thing I did, they were all isolated, the chaplains were, and I was their link to say you're doing a great job, this is what's going on, this is what's happening around theater, etc., etc. The phone system was shot, very few people had e-mail out at the Brits. which was spotty, and the Americans.
Steinhilber: The other thing I did was we...I didn't start this, but I kept it going, we had an SFOR chaplains' conference which meant half the chaplains in the theater came down to the conference in Sarajevo for about four days, two days in conference, one day of travel to and one day of travel back. They loved that because they finally would be able to touch shoulders with other chaplains.
Steinhilber: I remember the Russian chaplain coming down with his beard and his black robe saying, "Oh, this is wonderful, I felt so isolated up there with my Russian people," because he wasn't appreciated by the Russians. Again Russia had just changed over. Chaplains were brand new so we supported them that way.
Brinsfield: What was your relationship with Scott McCrystal? Had he already rotated out?
Steinhilber: He had gone out of there and Donna Weddle was in. Donna was pretty good. She was opening it up a little bit.
Brinsfield: Well Scott was a division chaplain, Donna was a division chaplain, were you the first SFOR chaplain?
Steinhilber: Seventh. Yeah, we could trace them back and I'm sorry. Had I known this I would have kept all of my notes and everything, but I was the seventh.
Brinsfield: Okay, we'll find it.
Steinhilber: So we had the conference and it was great. We took them around to see a mosque, the Orthodox church, the Catholic church. The meals were fantastic in Sarajevo because the French were cooking for us, it was great. An international affair. So they gave us a private dining room.
Steinhilber: One of the other things I did which I thought was pretty good was when we had the conference on the opening day of the conference, I knew General Miggs well enough that I said to his schedulist, I want General Miggs to come down and welcome the chaplains. These were his chaplains in the theaters. They said no way, it wasn't going to happen. He was too busy. So I said you put it down and you run in and you tell me what he says. What he said was he wanted to see me.
Steinhilber: So he asked me what was going on. So I told him. I said, "These are your chaplains representing a variety of nations," 38 at one point, and we went up and down on that.
Zarbock: Thirty-eight different nations?
Steinhilber: Yeah, there were over 50 chaplains, not all of them came to the conference and some of them came into visit. Like the Austrians would come into visit, come into Sarajevo, they had a small contingency of troops and then go out. I think there were about 30 chaplains in there for at least 3 months or longer.
Brinsfield: Did the Russians have chaplains there?
Steinhilber: Yes, there was a chaplain, but he was a Russian priest sent by the Metropolitan of Moscow to be with the troops, not well liked by the people because they were not used to having a chaplain and they were still fighting that Russian freedom, democracy, Army chaplain type things.
Steinhilber: So when I told him what, he said fine. We did it one week and then we did it another week so we could flip-flop and he came down for both of them. And they just could not believe their four star general would take time out of his schedule with the SFOR chaplain to come down and greet them. I wanted him to see the chaplains and I wanted them to see him so they could understand how important their mission was.
Steinhilber: The Spanish for instance are ancillary. They come out of a situation where okay, you're the bishop of Madrid or you're a high ranking official in Madrid, therefore you're a major and therefore you put on your uniform and you go on deployment when we need you. Chaplain, you take your Sunday morning masses, yeah you can take them to M____ which is a Catholic site, but you're not really a staff officer as such. So I wanted to boost their importance and push on them that way.
Steinhilber: I had a great incident with the Canadians. Had a good Canadian contingent in Sarajevo and they complained to me that their chaplains never visited them. Well they were up in Vehock which was way up in the corner. And I said really, so I went up and the chaplain said, "Yeah, we can't come down and visit because the brigade commander said no, we weren't allowed to visit. The Italian commanders were in favor of it, brigade commander said no. There's chaplains in Sarajevo." But if you know chaplains, it's not the same as having your own chaplain come down.
Steinhilber: So I thought okay, how am I going to do this. There were two commanders in the brigade. It was the second in command that kept saying no. It never got to the boss. So when I went up for a second visit, I said I wanted to talk to the brigade commander because he had come down to Sarajevo and I just had a brief chance to shake his hand. So I said I was coming up in a couple of weeks to say hello to you. "Oh yeah, come on up Chaplain."
Steinhilber: So when I went up there I said, "I've got a thing I need to talk to you about, but I think instead of talking about this problem what I'm going to do is I'm going to put it into a paper and I'm going to write it up and give it to you and then we can formalize it." He said no, no, what's going on. I said, "Well you know, you saw the gang down there, the Canadian forces in Sarajevo. You know other chaplains visit their forces up there all the time and they haven't seen the Canadian chaplain".
Steinhilber: "What! They haven't seen the chaplains." I said no, they were reluctant to go and we just want to put these two and two... "Oh we'll make it happen Chaplain, not a problem." Much to the chagrin to his second in command, he said to the chaplains, you're going to go visit and I want you to do it and in fact we've got a helicopter that goes down on a weekly basis. Can you help them with lodging there? Great, next week one of you, I don't care who, goes down and sees my people." So I did things like that to help, outside of taking care of the big people, the chaplains, I tried to coordinate ministry wherever I could. That was the second.
Steinhilber: The third part was I was trying to break in with the religious leaders and become a part of that but I had a Zen Buddhist who was the political advisor to the deputy, who was a French three star general, and he had no concept of chaplains. General Miggs was not interested in chaplains beyond taking care of. One day about three months before I left, I had a captain come into my office and said, "Sir, my general wishes to see you. Can you make time for him?" And I'm going he's a general, I'm a colonel, am I going to make time for him?
Steinhilber: I said yes, when did he want to see me. At your leisure. I said "Now?" "Oh, that would be wonderful, could you come now." This Spanish general said, "I received this piece of paper across my desk, Chaplain. It says we are having a meeting with religious leaders. I don't see your name on the distribution line, what's going on here?" So I talked with him and he said that that was ludicrous. He said he was in charge of the negotiations in this part of it, "You're a chaplain, you're a religious leader. People can relate to you. You will be part of all our negotiations."
Steinhilber: There again I had two months where I started meeting some of the religious leaders that I'd already met, but in a more formal setting as we talked issues. But then again the problem we always had with the SFOR chaplains was I was gone in two months. What the person did after me, I don't know. You can only hope that they picked up and continued on.
Brinsfield: Just one quick question. What were some of the issues that the religious leaders were interested in?
Steinhilber: The Jewish people had no issues because they fed everybody in the war and helped with the refugees. One of the main issues for the religious leaders was what do we do about a chaplaincy with the Army. The Serbs had chaplains in the Army and they urged them onward and upward. The Muslims didn't have anybody in there and were trying to work on the concept. Again part of it was negotiating with them because they were also leaders of other parts of working together with the government.
Steinhilber: One time the American chaplain in Sarajevo said to me, "I just got called by one of the secret people from the Americans, who said they needed me to go to a meeting tonight at 7:00" and I said no, that I was going to a birthday party. They said no, no, I had to go. I said, "Joe, I'm not going. I'm going to a birthday party." So he said, "You better go. It's out of my hands. I'll report back..." "Alright, if it's that important to you, I will."
Steinhilber: So we traveled to a certain section of Sarajevo where I did church on Sunday morning, I'll get to that in a minute, got there. Our lead vehicle dropped off and this other vehicle with four people, civilians, young men took over and said, "Follow us." So I had a real crazy chaplain assistant who had not only a pistol but an M-16 and I have another chaplain's assistant in the car who also had an M-16 and a pistol. Live ammunition because you know it wasn't in the weapon because we were in a hostile area, plus the other chaplain Joe and myself.
Steinhilber: So all of a sudden we leave Sarajevo and get into the Republic of Serbia which is part of Bosnia Herzegovina, the whole federation, that's the Serbian part. So we're traveling down the road and all of a sudden we turn off of the main road onto a dirt road and my assistant says, "Sir, can we load up." So I said no and all of a sudden we stop about a mile down the road in front of what looked like a deserted farm hut. And he said, "Sir, can we load up?" and I said "Yes."
Steinhilber: "Do we chamber a round?" "Not yet, but be prepared." So they waved to us from their vehicle and took off because they said when they stopped, we should stop and we'd be taken care of. So I'm just sort of sitting there and all of a sudden out of the barn comes this short figure in black robes with this big bushy beard and they said, "Should we get out of here, maybe this is an ambush." I said, "No, no, let's see what happens."
Steinhilber: So as he starts coming closer I said I was going up to meet him. And they said, "Now, now, now can we put a round in?" I said no, I think it will be okay. I began to recognize one of the old Serbian chaplains who I had met in another place. And what they saw was me walking up to him and of course in Serbia you don't shake someone's hand, me coming up to this figure, he's about my size, that's why I think I liked him, and we started gripping and hugging and they couldn't believe it.
Steinhilber: We were invited into a meeting of some religious leaders for an evening meal to be a part of their discussion. I'll tell you that was the one time I think I was scared.
Zarbock: What about language?
Steinhilber: Translators, they had translators for us. They brought in someone to translate for us. If you didn't drink, you had a hard time. If you drank, you also had a hard time. I was in Sarajevo, went up to the Intelligence building, went up to the top floor and the French looked at me and said, "Oh, you're a chaplain, a spiritual man I think." "Yes, I am." "We are spiritual persons too." Pulled open the bottom of a file drawer and pulled out a bottle of schnapps and put it on the table, pulled out three glasses and said, "We will share the spirit" (laughter). Some of the things like that are just humorous and provide you with pleasant memories.
Zarbock: One last question. I've asked this of other chaplains too. At any time in your military career, were you ever ordered or was it ever suggested, was it hinted, or was the flare of the nostril on an issue which might have done violence to your personal ethic or religious beliefs?
Steinhilber: Not really. I think most of us come into the military with enough training and sensitivity to know that if you want to get up in the pulpit and beat on people, you'll have problems. But I think there's enough sensitivity to the military, to the commanders and all that we don't do that as such. There are ways of getting your point across if you don't like something.
Steinhilber: One of my I think greatest moments was, I believe it was the 4th or 5th of October in '98 when I had finished as the SFOR chaplain, my replacement was in place. I was out at the hangar. The French controlled the airport, but not when the CG came in. The CG's jet landed, this was about 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon. All of a sudden all of the entourage came out to pick him up.
Steinhilber: He came out of the plane, walked, got into his vehicle, spotted me as he walking across the tarmac to his vehicle, waved at me, I saluted him and then as his contingency pulled away, I walked up to his jet with all of my gear. They helped me throw it on in and I sat in his seat and they said, "We're going back to Heidelberg and you're our only passenger. Sit back and enjoy the ride." A lot of good memories.
Steinhilber: A lot of good understanding of how other nations work and do their military and especially the military chaplaincy. One of the things I discovered that the Dutch chaplains, they don't use all priests for their Catholic coverage. They use lay people who are deacons. That's when I first met my Dutch Catholic chaplain who was married. I was sort of taken aback until I found out he wasn't a priest, he was a deacon. So you learn different things like that, you learn to appreciate other nations.
Steinhilber: Sadly I spent my last year after I left in October of '99, I came back up to Heidelberg, finished off till June and then came here to the Chaplain School to be the Director of Training. As I said before, I'm responsible for all in-house training and I've been here for four years and normally it's a three year tour, but they asked me to stay in place because they weren't ready to get a replacement for me. I said fine, I had three more years left.
Steinhilber: They told me where I'm going, but they also said I can't say anything to anybody at this point because it's early on and they've penciled me in. They don't want people to say this is where I'm going, and oh why did you change it so they said just hold on but we think this is where we're going to send you.
Steinhilber: It's been a great 26-1/2 years, I'll finish after 30. Like I said, I think during the break in the tape, if the Chief would come down to me and say, "Steinhilber, you're getting out tomorrow," I would say "Sir, it's been a tremendous time, a tremendous ministry for 27 years, I have no regrets, fine, I will leave." I understand now that with 30 coming up, I'll be ready to move on. There just comes a time when you say, ok, it's time to move on. Give it to the young ones.