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Interview with Teddy Lee Williams, August 13, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Teddy Lee Williams, August 13, 2007
August 13, 2007
Interview with Lieutenant Teddy Lee Williams, U.S. Navy chaplain.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Williams, Teddy Lee Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  8/13/2007 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  60 minutes


Zarbock: Good morning. My name is Paul Zarbock. I am a staff person with the University of North Carolina's Randall Library. Today is the 13th of August the year 2007, and I'm at the Chaplain's School, the U.S. Navy Chaplain School in Newport, Rhode Island. My interviewee is Teddy Lee Williams. Good morning, lieutenant. How are you?

Williams: Good morning, sir, doing just fine.

Zarbock: Let's start off by asking, as I cued you off-camera, what individual or series of individuals or event or series of events led you into the ministry?

Williams: Well, I would have to say that there were, of course, a series, like you said, of several individuals, I guess, that God just kind of brought them all together, when I look back over it. But I would have to say early on would be my grandfather. My grandfather was a minister in the Southern Baptist tradition. That's the tradition my faith grew that I'm ordained. And [inaudible]--

Zarbock: Where did he live?

Williams: He lived in Pennsylvania, yes sir. He was born in West Virginia and ended up in Pennsylvania. He was a mold maker for Hazel-Atlas Glass Company. And so-- but he was also a Southern Baptist minister. And so early on in my family's heritage, very much an influence there on the-- I don't want to say religious. That's not the right word that I'm searching for, but I guess that Godly influence was there. And that carried over into my father who was a Southern Baptist minister as well. And he was also a Marine for 11 years. He was in from 1958 to 1968. And so coming from that background of being raised in a family in the church, so to speak, and then also the military influence that my dad had on myself and my three older brothers, that would say-- I would say God used that t lay the foundation work for eventually what would be my call into the ministry and into the chaplaincy. And you can even see it fleshed in my brothers; I have three older brothers. And my oldest brother just retired from the Navy back in '94.

Zarbock: A chaplain also or--

Williams: No, I'm sorry. I'm the only officer in the family and the only chaplain. But just to see how that influence came through, my oldest brother, like I said, retired from the Navy. And then I have two other brothers who are still actively serving right now. One started out in the Marine Corps and he crossed over to the Army, but we still love him. And then I have another brother that's getting ready to retire from the Marine Corps as a master gunnery sergeant in January/February timeframe. So a lot of history and heritage there on the military side, and so that influence was always there growing up. And then also when I was a teenager is when I felt that-- it was more than a feeling that that inner calling that-- that I had to know that I was going to be going into the ministry.

Zarbock: Where were you living at the time, chaplain?

Williams: I was in Swansboro, North Carolina. We-- when my father got out of the Marine Corps, he got on the police department in Jacksonville, North Carolina. And so we stayed there in the area for quite awhile. And so that's where-- I call Jacksonville home. I was born there. And someone might be asking here in the interview well how was he a minister and a policeman? In the Southern Baptist tradition, they have what's called bi-vocational pastor, which means that the church may not be able to afford to pay the paster full-time salary. And so to put food on the table and to take care of my brothers and I, my dad was police officer and then he did the ministry as well. But-- so knowing that I had that calling on my own life of becoming a minister, but I also had that love for the military there. And at this point is where I was first introduced to the chaplaincy. And it was through a Southern Baptist chaplain who had come to speak to the other ministers at the association that we were at. It was the Atlantic Association there in North Carolina.

Zarbock: But you weren't a minister at that time, right?

Williams: No. I was a teenager, and I went with my dad who was the minister. So I went with him to this pastors' conference, if you will. And the name of the chaplain, I can't remember his name right now. He was a wonderful man, but he was one of the first ones that planted the seed of becoming a chaplain in the military that I could see the two together, a minister and someone serving in the military. And incidentally, I had a friend growing up. His name was Marcus Goss [ph?], and his father was a chaplain, Chaplain Goss. And I had talked with him a couple of times, and so I had been exposed to it up to that point. And again, this happened roughly around the same time when my friend, Chaplain Goss, was there and then this other chaplain whose name-- I'm trying to search for it. I can't remember. But the influence that both of those had really of just putting it together and saying, "Okay, wow, I can be serving in the military and honoring that call that God has placed upon my life."

Zarbock: Well, you got out of high school, and what happened to you, sir?

Williams: After I got out of high school, I went to Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky. And I went there-- I graduated from high school in '89, and I waited a year. I waited a year. I went to a community college, Carteret Community College there in Morehead City. And the reason I waited was because I was waiting on my bride-to-be to finish high school, and then we went off to college together. And I married her after our freshman year while at Asbury. They had-- interestingly, they had housing available for married students that were old quarters that were built for the influx of GIs coming back from World War II. And so my young bride and I actually had an early start. Before we were even on active duty, we were living in base housing, so to speak, so it didn't scare her off either. I guess, you know, the quality of base housing as far as the cinderblock walls and the tile floor and--

Zarbock: As a sophomore and eventually a senior or junior--

Williams: Yes, sir.

Zarbock: Did you and your bride talk about the possibility of entering the military as a chaplain?

Williams: Oh, yes sir. I'm sorry. I knew that, at that point, when I-- while I was in high school and finishing up, I had done what we call in our faith tradition of accepting the call of the ministry, which means that the local church licensed me, meaning they observed me for a period of time. And then-- in some Southern Baptist traditions, it doesn't require education coordination. However, I felt that that was important. It just adds to your credibility. It adds to just your general well-being as far as just a liberal arts education, the knowledge of being well rounded so that you can be better used by God. And so after high school, I knew that this was the calling, and I needed to be prepared for that. And so in talking with Kelly, my bride, and we both went to Asbury. She was an English major, and I was a history major. The reason why is because that influential chaplain back at that pastors' conference had told me when I go off to school, I'm going to go to seminary, because you have to be-- you have to have your masters to become a chaplain. And he said, "So take something that you enjoy. Just take something that you're comfortable with and enjoy, if that happens to be biblical studies or something along those lines, that's fine. But know that you'll get that in seminary and then some, more than you'll ever probably want to know about." And so that's why I chose to be a history major. It's just what better preparation, I think, of just looking at God's world around us and how people interact and that sort of thing.

Zarbock: Chaplain, with the greatest of respect, how did you earn your bread and butter? Here you are a-- a new wife. You're living on the campus.

Williams: Yes, sir.

Zarbock: You're both students.

Williams: We were very blessed. I worked-- we both worked part-time so that it was as if one full-time income was supporting us. And so-- and incidentally, we both graduated on time. So God was very gracious to us.

Zarbock: Where did you work? Where did your wife work?

Williams: I worked in the cafeteria for awhile, and then I worked on-- interestingly enough, I worked on-- in the cafeteria scrubbing pots and pans and bringing food out to the serving line. I keep wanting to put in my Navy jargon now, you know, bringing the chow out to the chow line (laughing) but bringing the food out to the serving line. And then I finally got a job working on the paint crew one summer, which I enjoyed doing, and then the yards crew, the grounds crew, because then I got to be outside [inaudible]--

Zarbock: This is the campus painting crew.

Williams: Yes sir, this is all on the campus. And then my bride worked in the church relations office. They had a church relations office there on the campus. And basically she was the student secretary for the lady who was in charge of that. And then she also worked in the alumni office. She would bounce between those two back and forth.

Zarbock: Those were busy days.

Williams: Yes sir, they were.

Zarbock: Were they happy days?

Williams: Very much so, very much so. We look back on that especially-- we just moved here to Newport, Rhode Island. This is a-- incidentally, it's a fourth duty station, so fourth move since being on active duty. And so we were talking about that when we were unloading all of this stuff, and we have our two daughters, Sarah and Katie, who are seven and soon to be four. And so were unloading all of this stuff and just looking back. And the house that we're in here in Rhode Island was built back in the '20s. And so we were kind of thinking back to that first house that we lived in. It was really-- it was a duplex that I was talking about earlier that the GIs, that they built for those. And we were just kind of chuckling to ourselves as to how we got all of that into a U-Haul trailer and now it took a 18 wheeler to bring everything (laughing) and unload it, so very much so, very happy. We look back on that, and those were good times. They really were. And so bringing it back around though, the preparation for the history degree and then is a good basis even for going onto seminary. So I knew early on that this was God's call that He had on me. And so I was more or less just in preparation mode of okay, Lord, if this is what you want me to do, what are the steps then that I need to take to get there? And there's always been someone that He's brought into my life or into my wife's life that has encouraged us, mentored us, along that way. And so one would be Chaplain Goss and the nameless chaplain (laughing) and then going on into Asbury. And the time there was really wonderful. It was a good basis, got involved in student government. And that was another thing, too. Even though we were married, we still were involved in the campus and the different things that were going on there. So she was a writer. She was an English major, a journalism background. So she wrote for the campus paper, and then I volunteered with student government and things like that. So it was just a fun time and good preparation I've come to find out, because since I've been on active duty, which I know sir you're talking me through-- we'll eventually get to how I got here. But I have used my painting skills; I have used my groundskeeping skills. I've even served food a couple of times. (laughing) So it just all-- you see the whole package, the whole preparation. And I've heard it said that God's always preparing you for your next job. He's always giving you the skills and the experience that you need in what you're going to be doing next. And at the time I wouldn't have thought so. But I can look back now, and I can see that, that even taking the food out there and serving it on the serving lines, setting up the drinks, painting, I've used that since I've been on active duty as a chaplain from talking to the guys and actually slinging a paint brush on the deck when they were chipping and painting to serving food when we're out in the desert. So [inaudible]--

Zarbock: Where did you go to seminary, sir?

Williams: I went to seminary at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, yes sir. I was looking at which seminary to go to, and my grandfather who I talked about earlier went to Southern Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. And incidentally, as I'd mentioned earlier, Southern Baptists don't necessarily equate seminary education with ordination. So my father did not go to seminary, but my grandfather did. And so I was looking at where he went and thinking, "Wow, that would be really cool to go where my grandfather went and to walk the same place he did and stuff." And then I was looking at Southern and then Southeastern-- I'd never considered Southeastern. But I love North Carolina, almost to the point of my wife's aggravation. I love the state, and I love being there. I hope to retire there one day in spite of her (laughing) best efforts to live somewhere else [inaudible].

Zarbock: Where is your wife from?

Williams: She's from North Carolina as well, but she wants a cooler climate. (laughing) We're both from the coastal area. She grew up in the Morehead City/Swansboro area, Cape Carteret. I grew up in the Jacksonville/Cape Carteret area.

Zarbock: Well, off you go to seminary.

Williams: Off I go to seminary, that's right.

Zarbock: You're how old at this time?

Williams: Oh my, let's see.

Zarbock: About 22, 21?

Williams: Yes sir. I graduated from Asbury-- like I said, we both graduated on time. I graduated in '94. And so--

Zarbock: Went immediately into--

Williams: Went immediately into seminary, started that summer actually when we moved from Wilmore, Kentucky to Wake Forest, North Carolina.

Zarbock: But I'm sorry, I galloped ahead of you.

Williams: Oh, that's fine.

Zarbock: You were saying about your grandfather--

Williams: Yes, sir.

Zarbock: --connected to Louisville.

Williams: Yes, sir.

Zarbock: But yet, you went to Wake Forest.

Williams: Yes, sir, and that was--

Zarbock: And that was just [inaudible]--

Williams: I was accepted at both institutions.

Zarbock: You wanted to [inaudible]--

Williams: I was accepted at Southern, and I was accepted at Southeastern.

Zarbock: You wanted to be in North Carolina.

Williams: Yes, sir. I just wanted to-- the doors of opportunity opened up in North Carolina as far as our housing and with my wife's job as well. She was able to get a couple of jobs that would-- that were in her field at the time, English and journalism. She wrote for a dance magazine, which is interesting. It's about this-- she wrote for a dance teacher, Dance Teacher Now, which was classical ballet and jazz, that sort of stuff. So she wrote for them. She wrote, and still does, for the Baptist State Convention, North Carolina Baptist State Convention. And then she did a couple of jobs for the seminary as well. So the doors of opportunity as far as in just asking-- when you're presented a choice-- and sometimes well, I do. I believe this is that when you do have choices that sometimes God blesses you and you could go in either direction. And I know that that would be the case, but the opportunities just seemed to be more in North Carolina. And so that's how we ended up back at Wake Forest.

Zarbock: The seminary training is three years. Is that correct?

Williams: Yes, sir.

Zarbock: And there's an internship in part of that three years?

Williams: There is-- as far as for pastoral ministry experience?

Zarbock: Yes.

Williams: No, sir. You're encouraged to get involved in a local congregation to gain that. Yes, sir, there is an internship that is part of that, sorry. It was like an independent study, but you were still under the tutelage of a senior pastor that would help you with that for a semester, yes sir. So we did have that.

Zarbock: Had you started the family at that time?

Williams: No, sir. We had decided to wait until we got through seminary. And so looking back, not to jump ahead, but we had our first daughter after being married eight years. So we have that eight years of time that we look back on and couldn't imagine not having our daughters now. But then there's that period of time that we have that, you know, we have the shared memories there of the little place in Kentucky and the little place in Wake Forest and those things and how the whole process of getting here, which we'll get into a little more. While I was at seminary, that's where I wanted to go ahead. I talked with Chaplain Goss again and the other individual that-- he's name's going to come to me at the end of this interview, and we can tie it all back together [inaudible]--

Zarbock: Or tomorrow morning at about 3:00.

Williams: Yes, sir. (laughing) But they encouraged me to go ahead and contact our denominational representative for the Southern Baptists to let them know that I was interested in becoming a chaplain and to go ahead and start that process while I was in seminary, because they have a program called the Chaplain Candidate Program. What that is, you already have your four-year undergrad degree, which is the basic requirement for becoming a commissioned officer. So they commission you into the reserve as a chaplain candidate, which is understudy basically, because you're still in seminary. And then upon completion of seminary and your minimum ministry experience, which changes from denomination to denomination, but with Southern Baptists-- most of them, it's about a two-year minimum. And so after you complete all those, then you can come onto active duty. So that was the course that I took. I went ahead on 10 April of 1995 is when I took my oath in this commission as an ensign while I was there in seminary. So I graduated from Asbury in '94, went through the paperwork of coming onto active duty the fall of '94 and was commissioned in the following spring of '95 and all of this while in seminary, where I worked at library, because I was still working part-time. And Kelly was working-- she was working full-time with two or three part-time jobs to pull it all together. (laughing)

Zarbock: You know, one of the things that has occurred, and you're certainly supporting that, the wife of a chaplain, military chaplain is on duty too.

Williams: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

Zarbock: It is not eating bon bons and looking out of the window at the farmhands working the field.

Williams: No, sir. No, sir it is not.

Zarbock: It takes a lot of commitment on the part of--

Williams: I couldn't be here-- it was a team-- it is a team effort. I couldn't be here by myself without the help that she's given me, not just emotionally and physically but just spiritually, the whole package as far as the support that she's given me, and definitely, yes sir.

Zarbock: Okay, so congratulations. You've just finished seminary.

Williams: Yes, sir. (laughing) [inaudible]--

Zarbock: What happened then? Somebody ship you off to some--

Williams: Well, from-- I was in seminary the first three years for-- and got my M.Div. I had decided to stay and extra year. So that I-- they had just came out with a Master of Arts in Counseling program there at Southeastern. And so I decided that-- it was coming up about halfway through seminary. And so I started doubling up-- what I did is I took my-- oh, I forget what the technical term is, but your electives, yes. I took the electives for the one degree, which were requirements in the other degree. And so I graduated from seminary M.Div. in '97 and then I stayed that extra year and got my MA. in counseling in '98. So while I was doing that I was working on my two years experience for coming onto active duty. So I worked-- I did what's called clinical pastoral education. A did a unit of CPE at Rex Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina. And I did that, which again goes back to what I was saying, how God's always preparing you for the next thing he's going to have you do. The hospital ministry that I got to participate in there was very instrumental in-- even though it was-- and of course, I was a chaplain candidate at the time. And so in the what we called the J sessions, the January sessions and in between the fall-- after the spring semester, you'd have the summer off to go and do the training, what we called upon the job training where you would go to a base or a ship or somewhere along those lines to do your training. And then you would come back in the fall semester and you'd just continue on with your coursework. And so while all that was going on I also did this unit of CPE which counted towards my ministry experience. And then working at the-- assisted with a couple of churches as an associate pastor and Kellum Baptist Church in Jacksonville, North Carolina. And then I did a little bit of work for a couple of months before coming on active duty at Cape Carteret Baptist Church.

Zarbock: What did you do in your spare time? (laughing)

Williams: You know, I [inaudible]--

Zarbock: The 20 minutes a week that you had spare time.

Williams: Yes, sir, love to read. And my wife does too. I guess that's the liberal arts education shining through there. We both love to do that. I like sailing, so I try and do that. You're right, though. That was a good question, to make sure that-- because especially in the helping professions like minister, doctor, sometimes we take care of ourselves last. And so you're absolutely right in asking me that. Have I always taken care of myself? No. I'll be honest with you. No, to the camera. But I do, especially now with my children, look for those times when I know, okay, you need to stop this because one day you're going to hang this suit up, and you'll always be their dad and so looking for those things to do in taking care of myself and my family too, absolutely.

Zarbock: Well, after all of your education, and have you been-- and you have been sworn into the Navy.

Williams: Yes, sir. I was a chaplain candidate. I can give that track too. While I was-- the training track, the way that worked, the summer of '95 I went to San Diego, California where they had the chaplain candidate indoctrination course. We were the last class to go through in San Diego. It was a blast. I had fun. San Diego is a beautiful place. Then from there, came back, went to school-- or you know, regular classes and such. And the next summer, they changed the program to where they wanted chaplain candidates to come back to Newport, Rhode Island to come through the first half of the chaplain school. So I've been to Newport several times. And people ask me how many times-- you know, when I did you go to chaplain school? I just say, "Yes, several times." They have several classes. I needed remediation. So my first time was in '96. I went through the first half. The next year, in '97, they decided that they wanted the chaplains to just go ahead and complete-- the chaplain candidates to complete the whole school, the whole 11 weeks. Well, I took '97 off. It goes back to that taking time with your family. So I didn't do any training that year. And in fact, we went to Williamsburg and ___________ and had some fun traveling that summer, my wife and I; '98, I came back to chaplain school to finish that second half. So that's what I consider my graduation year. For other chaplains who are watching for posterity, August of '98 is what I consider when I graduated from chaplain school.

Zarbock: And where were you assigned?

Williams: I wasn't on active duty yet.

Zarbock: That's right.

Williams: I was getting my ministerial experience during this time as well. So I finished up there and then in '98 I also went to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to do some training with the Marines. And that's the first time that I met one of my mentors-- when we pick up from where Chaplain Goss and the other individual kind of brought me along through the chaplain candidate process-- up to that point, and then to kind of pick up from there, Chaplain Randy Cash. I first met him in January of '98 up in Jacksonville-- or I should down in Jacksonville, North Carolina. He was just finishing up a tour with division, and he's a Southern Baptist as well, and so we had that in common. And he had said that, you know, if I needed any assistance or any questions just to ask him. And so I asked a couple of questions, and he's just been a great mentor since then. And so as part of that, after I finished in '98 with the chaplain school, I'd already graduated from seminary as well with the second degree. And they asked me to come back as a chaplain candidate here to the chaplain school to be the assistant to the basic course officer, which means I was in charge of getting coffee and running the copier machine, all those important behind the scenes things. So I actually-- and this is before we had children. So Kelly came up here with me as well. And that's a wonderful memory that we have too. We stayed just across the street in one of the bachelor officer quarters rooms for-- we had some broken time in between classes where we went back home and then came back. But basically, we were here from September of '98 to March of '99. So it was a wonderful time. On the weekends we would go up to Boston and travel around and see the place. So all that was building in as well, so it didn't just happen-- it wasn't a-- and I know each chaplain's story is different, to where some will finish seminary, and they have their two years experience and boom, they come right in. With me, I look back over and just see it as a whole process of God's hand throughout the whole process, people that just come in and out of my life and my wife's life, my mentors, like I said, and so this was all the preparation. I'm not even on active duty yet. And so we did that, and then when we finished up here at the chaplain's school, we went back to Jacksonville, North Carolina. After I graduated from seminary, we went back home and was renting a house down there in Cape Carteret, North Carolina. And that was kind of our base of operation while we were skipping about, I guess, the eastern seaboard with the Navy doing these on the job training things. And then I came back in '99, and that's when I did an internship at Kellum Baptist Church, and that's where I was ordained at. And so I [inaudible]--

Zarbock: I'm sorry. What was the name of the church.

Williams: Kellum Baptist Church in Jacksonville, North Carolina. So all this--

Zarbock: K-e-l--

Williams: K-e-l-l-u-m, yes sir. So we had come up to this point, and now I'm finally ordained. I had my ministry experience and requirements. I was doing some more on the job training with the Marines there at Camp Lejeune.

Zarbock: What was that like? What did they have you doing?

Williams: Oh well, because I wasn't an active duty chaplain, I couldn't operate independently as a chaplain. But a chaplain candidate can do some of the functions, like lead in prayer, lead Bible studies and things like that, under the supervision of a senior chaplain. So basically I would go to a base, such as say you were the senior chaplain, my supervisory chaplain; I would report to you. Then you'd say, "Okay, Chaplain Williams, I want you to go and we have a retirement ceremony coming up. Go meet these individuals, write a prayer, do the prayer for it. We have some Marines going out to the field. Would you please accompany them while they're going to do that?" So I would go out and do those sorts of things.

Zarbock: Now, that's kind of a casual sentence, "Go out and accompany the Marines into field."

Williams: Yes, sir. (laughter)

Zarbock: I mean, they don't pack a picnic lunch and go out and sit under an apple tree.

Williams: Well, no sir.

Zarbock: What did that require of you?

Williams: Well, you find someone that feels sorry for you and will take you in when you first get to the unit, preferably one of the company gunneys. And you say, "Gunney, [inaudible]--

Zarbock: Now, a gunney being a gunnery sergeant.

Williams: --gunnery sergeant. "Gunney, help me figure this out, because I'm not even on active duty yet. I've reported to my first unit." Plus, I had the background with my family background. That helped a lot. So I wasn't totally lost in the culture. A lot of guys when they come in the chaplain corps, you'll find that you have-- well, on the Navy side, you have some chaplains who have prior service experience or family background, and that helps in knowing the culture. And then you have some guys that have to learn a whole new culture, and it's a paradigm shift for them. They have to learn the whole process. So I'm not saying that I was all of that or knew everything. I knew just enough to ask a gunney is what I'm saying. (laughing)

Zarbock: But you went out in the field with them.

Williams: I did, yes sir. That's where I found out-- Kelly, I guess, got her first test as a military wife with-- that's where I first found out that I was-- where we were expecting our first daughter. I was out in the field, and you're thinking how did he find out then? Because we had cell phones (laughing); I wasn't too far out that I didn't have my cell phone. But I was assigned to Chaplain Mozzon. Ollis Mozzon was my supervisory chaplain.

Zarbock: How do you spell that?

Williams: I think it's-- forgive me, sir, if you ever see this. I think it's O-l-l-i-s M-o-z-z-o-n, Ollis Mozzon. He is a captain now, and the last I'd heard he's out on the West Coast, again someone else who was a mentor along the way. There are three chaplains, and I'll name them now while I've got it in my mind. Chaplain Randy Cash, Chaplain Dell White, and Chaplain Ollis Mozzon, those three individuals have been very influential in helping me along the way in understanding what it means to be a chaplain. Chaplain Mozzon said, "Chaplain Williams, are you teachable? That's the only question that you ever have to worry about is just ask yourself," because he had a senior chaplain tell him that one time. "Are you teachable? Ask yourself that."

Zarbock: I've been told in other interviews that in dealing with the Marines you either do what the Marines are doing or the Marines find out you are not one of them.

Williams: Oh, yes sir. You do what they're doing. You go out to the field with them. You exercise PT with them. You eat what they eat or don't eat. You go where they go.

Zarbock: A comfortable four-poster bed at night?

Williams: No. No, sir. No, sir. (laughing) I'll jump ahead, this last deployment that we were on, we did an exercise in Kenya. I was with the Marines. I was with Second Battalion, Second Marines, the Warlords out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. That's the second battalion of the second Marine Regimen, 2-2. And we were doing an exercise in Kenya to do bilateral training. And when people talk about Africa hot, I can honestly say, "Yes, I understand what that means," now. You were talking about a four-poster bed. We had these little bug nets that they issue us now that you lay down on, and you zip the thing up at night. And I was so hot. You just laid there, no sleeping bag. We brought our sleeping bags, but they were of no use. You just laid down on this mat that we call isomat. It's basically like polypropylene or foam, very thin. You laid that down or you had an air mattress, if you were fortunate, which I did have an air mattress. I'm not going to lie to you. So I blew up my air mattress, and I was laying on that thing all the way down to my boxers. You strip down all the way down to your boxers. And you're just laying there, and you're praying for a breeze. Lord, please let a breeze blow over us. So you don't always get the four-poster bed, no sir. (laughing) But I don't want to get too far ahead. So ordained in '99, came on active duty after my ordination and finishing up the church experience there. And after the birth of our daughter in December of '99, I came on active duty and was finishing up the process January thru February of 2000. So that's when I consider-- that's when the Navy considers that I came on active duty, in 2000. Came back to chaplain school because they changed a couple of things to where I needed two more courses for coming on active duty. So I came and did those and then reported to my first command as the Command Chaplain to the U.S.S. Cowpens, Cowpens like the battle in South Carolina, C-o-w-p-e-n-s. That's a guided missile cruiser, and so her number is CG-63. I reported to her in San Diego, California. So the Navy in its infinite wisdom, here we are in Jacksonville, North Carolina, thinking I would come on active duty and go to a Marine unit. And that's where you learn-- I'm going to jump ahead of myself. You were asking about the absurdity. This is one of the absurdities. They moved me and my three-month-old daughter and my wife of nine years all the way to San Diego, California. (laughing) So we didn't know anybody.

Zarbock: Household goods and all?

Williams: Household goods and all, yes sir, household goods and all.

Zarbock: Did you accompany your household goods, or did you go by air and--

Williams: No, sir, we drove out ahead of time to beat our household goods, otherwise they would have gone into storage. So we had to go out there and find a house. (laughing) So we did that, and I reported on the ship. And of course, the ship left about six weeks later on deployment. So my new baby and wife are there in the area and learning their way around.

Zarbock: New baby, wife who has never been in San Diego, is that correct?

Williams: No, sir.

Zarbock: And sayonara, I'm off to sea.

Williams: Yes, sir, and it's one thing-- and if she was here, she would tell you the same thing. That might be interesting too, if you ever interviewed some of the spouses. I don't know how that would fit into your thing, but she would tell you this, I'm pretty sure if she was sitting here. Not to speak for her, but it's one thing to plan and to know mentally that okay yes, we're going to be in the military. Her grandfather was a chief in World War II. Her other grandfather was a gunnery officer in World War II. So she had-- she wasn't foreign to the military. Both of us were raised in Jacksonville, so she knew about the Marines and that sort of thing. It's one thing to know about it, but then when you're actually living it-- so we'd talked about it through college and through seminary. She'd experienced my doing the on the job training. The first time I'd ever been away since we were married was when I went to San Diego for eight weeks for that chaplain candidate indoctrination back in '95. And you know, so that was her first taste of me being gone and mine too. So she was like, okay, so he's going to be gone sometime. I will adjust. I can handle that. And then when she told me when I was out in the field and found out about the fact that we were pregnant with my daughter. But then when you're actually living it and when I get on the ship and they take the brow away, there's no getting off. Well, I guess you could, but you'd get in trouble-- you better be a good swimmer anyway. And then that ship leaves, and that's it.

Zarbock: How long did you know you were going to be gone? Did you know?

Williams: Did I know? Oh, yes, sir. We were going to be gone almost five months, well four months, yes sir. It was a [inaudible]--

Zarbock: And you're not coming back to San Diego. You are gone from San Diego, and you are not coming back to San Diego.

Williams: Yes, sir. We went to Japan, Hong Kong, Taipan. We did what we call a hall swap. That's something relatively new in the Navy where picture-- this might go to the absurdity too. Picture two five-story office buildings side by side, and you're going to move-- you're just going to swap them. So everything in this five-story office building is going to go over to this building, and everything in this building is going over here.

Zarbock: Is there logic behind that?

Williams: The logic behind it is to bring back-- we did this in Japan. Let me go through the whole thing. So I was originally on the Cowpens, CG-63. We were scheduled to go over to Japan to Yukosuka and do the hall swap with the U.S.S. Mobile Bay, CG-53. And that would be my ship, because we were going to bring the Mobile Bay back to San Diego. Things that are in Japan are considered forward deployed. And so the repair cycle and things like that aren't as regular or intense as what they would be back in the states. The Mobile Bay had been over there I think about 10 years. So they wanted to bring her back to San Diego to do some needed repairs and updates of some of the things on the ship and that sort of stuff. So they brought her back, or I should say we did. And the logic behind it is it just saves money because you're not sending out the whole ship with its crew and moving everybody. It was an 80-20 swap. So 20 percent of the crew went to the new ship, or I mean, excuse me, stayed with the ship. Let me make sure I get this straight now, especially to a statistician as yourself. But it was an 80-20 swap, where 20 percent of the crew on the Cowpens was going over to the Mobile Bay. That's what it was, and I was in that 20 percent. So we didn't have to worry about a PCS move, permanent change of stations in Japan. I think that would have sent all of us over the edge if you had to go from San Diego to Japan too. But we brought the Cowpens back-- or I mean the Mobile Bay back and went into the shipyard for a period of seven months. And then-- which was nice because I got to be home in the evenings. You kind of know what the cycle is going to be. It's a little frustrating, because ships are made to be in the water. And so you want to be out there doing what ships do, but it was still nice to be home in the evening and those sorts of things.

Zarbock: But your duty obligations have to do with the ship.

Williams: Correct, yeah.

Zarbock: When you got back to San Diego in the seven-month period--

Williams: Yes, sir.

Zarbock: You weren't assigned some sort of land--

Williams: The ship-- the crew, you're still working near the ship in the shipyard. They bring alongside what they call a birthing barge. And we just make that our office spaces and such. And we'd go on the ship on almost a daily basis to make sure they're doing what you want in your spaces as far as updating them, painting, doing things around [inaudible]--

Zarbock: What were your duties? What were your chaplain duties?

Williams: My chaplain duties on a cruiser was--

Zarbock: At the time, the seven month--

Williams: Oh, it's the same. It's just what we call deck plate ministry. Walking the deck plates, knowing your people, and it's everything from invocations for retirement ceremonies and christenings for newborns to weddings, memorial services, counseling. A large part of what chaplains do does involve counseling, as far as providing pastoral guidance, pastoral counseling. And then again it's just that building relationships. That's what we do. We build relationships to get to know people so that we can remind them of God's presence [inaudible]--

Zarbock: Would you have worship service on Sundays?

Williams: I would not while we were in the yard, because we would encourage people while we were in port to go and get involved in their local congregations and such. We did try to do services a couple of times on the ship when we were back pier side back at the naval base. But again, I was trying to explain to our CO, sir, they're not going to want to come, but I'll do it. It's your program. And so I did it for two Sundays. And he said, "Chaplain, how many people are showing up?" And I said, "Sir, only two, myself and the RP." (laughing) And I said, "And it's not because of lack of interest or because they don't like me. It's because they're going out to the other services." And so he said, "Okay, yeah, I'm going to the service out in town too." (laughing) "So okay, you don't have to do services anymore in port." I was like, "Thank you, sir." (laughing) So that was my first duty station was in San Diego, California. And I finished up there in December of 2001. And I got orders to Marine Barracks, Washington in Washington D.C. at 8th&I. It was a ceremonial unit-- well, it's more than just that, but that's what people associate them with, the Marine Corps, the president's own Marine Band; the Drum & Bugle Corps, which is the commandant's own; the Silent Drill Platoon; the Color Guard; the whole package; the Friday evening parade, all of that.

Zarbock: What were your duties there?

Williams: Again, there's kind of a theme that runs through of what chaplains do of that deck plate ministry or when you're with the Marines, I like to call it fighting hole visits. You visit in their fighting holes, their work spaces, just getting to know them so that they feel comfortable with you and you know them. And so that when they do have that something that comes up that they can come and talk to you about it, whether it's something major or something to celebrate, like whatever, so that you're there. And again, it goes from baby dedications and christenings to-- I did a lot of weddings, because it was a shore tour, so the Marines were getting married. Did not do services there as well, because we were downtown D.C., and so people would go to their local churches and things like that. Now, on special occasions, I would hold services. And did this when we were in the yard too, like for advent. I went in and held advent services while we were in the yard and also while I was at 8th&I. I did a Christmas Eve service for the duty. My wife and I would bring in some baked goods and things like that for the guys who were standing post, the little things that you hope-- to let them know that you're thinking about them.

Zarbock: Let me back up. Ask you, what do you mean you and your wife would bring in baked goods?

Williams: We would-- because it was Christmas Eve, and so we would have-- we knew they would be standing post, and we wanted them to know that we [inaudible]--

Zarbock: So these are guys are guard--

Williams: Yes, sir.

Zarbock: At the Navy--

Williams: Yes, sir, well, either on the ship or at 8th&I. Yes, sir.

Zarbock: I've only heard of one other chaplain that did that. He did it at Camp Lejeune on Christmas.

Williams: Really? Yes, sir. We try to do it Christmas Eve wherever I'm serving. We always try to take something to the guys that are on duty. Of course, they don't eat it while they're on duty, but (laughing)--

Zarbock: So they can't do that?

Williams: Well, technically. I'm sure they sneak a bit of a cookie in there sometimes. (laughing) They're pretty resourceful, but the main thing is that it's kind of our way of just letting them know hey, you know, you're standing duty, and we love you and are thinking about you too while you're out here. And so we do that, yes sir.

Zarbock: Just to be remembered is a mighty fine feeling.

Williams: Yes sir, it is. So a lot of ceremonies at 8th&I, so I did a lot of time-- we had a-- it's a saying at 8th&I that you're either a marcher marching in the parades or you're a hoster welcoming the guests. So as a chaplain, myself and my assistant, we call them RPs on the Navy side, Religious Program Specialists. So my RP, RP-2 Dilliner, D-i-l-l-i-n-e-r, RP-2 Dilliner and I just got involved in the hosting process. And so if you ever go to a Friday evening parade or the Tuesday evening parade at 8th&I and you get welcomed by that Marine or sailor, escorted to your seat, I was one of those. We just escorted people to the seats, assisted them in whatever they wanted to do and took care of them. So we did that. Got to travel some with the Drum & Bugle Corps, which was very, very wonderful. Chief Horn Officer Brian Dix is the director. And so I got to travel with them some to Bella Wood. Got to do invocation at Bella Wood. That was very memorable to be with the Marines and then to be in Bella Wood, France and to walk the line at the hill where-- the wheat field and where-- you know, you read about the history. And being raised around the Marine Corps with my dad and my brothers and then being able to serve at 8th&I and the history that's associated with that. And then to actually be at one of those hallowed places in Marine Corps history. That was really awesome. That was a good experience.

Zarbock: Well, (laughing) tell me more.

Williams: Okay, sir. (laughing) Let's see. From 8th&I is when I came back to chaplain school after departing in September of '04, departed from D.C. to chaplain school to do an advanced course that they have. Chaplain school offers different courses along your level of progression. And so in just making sure that you've got the different classes and things that you need for the next level. So I had to come back and do this particular course for staff and leadership. And then I reported to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in December of '04. So we came full circle and was able-- three tours later, we find ourselves back at Camp Lejeune.

Zarbock: Let me ask a question about assignment. Did you request being assigned to the Marines, or did-- you were told you're going to go with the Marines?

Williams: A little bit of both. I had requested to go with the Marines when I was leaving 8th&I to go to Second Marine Division. I was told that there were no openings at Second Marine Division, so they tried to tell me to go, you know, to one of these other locations. I was offered a ship. I was offered Marines in Hawaii, and I was offered Marines in-- excuse me, not Marines, but naval in Sicily. And someone who's watching this right now who is in North Carolina is wondering, why didn't he chose Hawaii or Sicily. (laughing) The reason is I made a promise to my wife that when I would deploy-- we knew I would be deploying to OIF, Operation Iraqi Freedom, if I went the Marine unit-- that I would do that from the East Coast so she could be near family, because we'd had our second daughter at this point. We had her-- talked about my first daughter. I had my second daughter while we were in D.C. in '03. So I made that promise to her that I'd deploy from the East Coast if I could. And I was just able to work that out to where it did work out so I could come to Second Marine Division.

Zarbock: Why were you so drawn to the Second Marine?

Williams: I'm going to be honest with you. It has a lot to do with my dad. My dad was with the Second Marine Division. My brothers both served with the Second Marine Division. Come to find out, one of my brothers served in Gulf Company of 2-2, the battalion that I was going to be going to. So I wanted a turn to serve with this unit as well, or with the Second Marine Division.

(tape change)

Zarbock: This is tape number two. Chaplain Teddy Lee Williams. Today is the 13th of August, 2007. I'm in Newport, Rhode Island at the U.S. Navy Chaplains School. Well, tape number two Chaplain. Take off and tell me some more, funny things, bad things, humorous things.

Williams: Sure. Let me think here. I think we were talking about going up to the- the-- going back to the Second Marine Division. So, we got there and then we reported aboard in December, right, December of '04 and I wasn't sure which battalion I was going to be going to. And so, what they- what they do when you report to Division, the Division Chaplain parcels you out to whichever unit that you're going to. And so, I had to wait for a couple of months. And finally I found out that I was going to 2-2.

Zarbock: This is the Second Battalion of the Second Marine Regiment.

Williams: Yes, sir.

Zarbock: How many battalions in a regiment by the way.

Williams: There are three.

Zarbock: Okay.

Williams: And so, the-- what they decided to do was to send me to 2-2, which was gearing up and preparing for Iraq. And they had just come back from Iraq. This battalion had-- early on had been one of the ones, they were actually on a MEU-- I'll give you a little bit of their background, a Marine expeditionary unit. I think it was the 26th MEU incidentally, which will come again later. But they were at the 26th MEU at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, which was March or April of '04 I believe. And so, they were on their MEU, on their float we call it, and they were supposed to be finishing up. A float usually lasts about six months, give or take a month.

Zarbock: This is on ship board.

Williams: Correct. And the-- their float got extended in preparation for Operation Iraqi Freedom. And it ended up going from six months to 10 months. And they coined a little phrase, "They were the MEU that God forgot." Not really, we knew where they-- He knew where they were. But they felt like it, I'm sure. So, they did that and came back. Then they went back over to Iraq again. I can't remember the exact month. But I know they came back in October of '04, the fall of '04 and I joined up with them in January of '05. So, things were relatively fresh in their minds as far as "Okay, we just got back from Iraq. We're gearing up and we're going to go again in July of '05."

Zarbock: How was morale?

Williams: It was a little- a little nervous for the guys that had been with the battalion already for those two, we call them a pump, two pumps over to Iraq already. And so, we had some guys that were looking at going their third time and just got back and so anxiety was a little high as far as "Okay, am I going, or am I going to be leaving the unit?" What that was going to be like, what that is entailing. And then I got thrown into the mix with that. And the CO was a Colonel Kyseir [ph?]. I believe it was K-Y-S-E-I or I-E-R. Lieutenant Colonel, excuse me. Lieutenant Colonel Kyseir was the CO at that time. I only had him for a month and then it was the CO that I went to Iraq with, which was Lieutenant Colonel Minick, M-I-N-I-C-K. We had the same XO which was Major Dixon, D-I-X-O-N and Sergeant Major- Sergeant Major Swann, S-W-A-N-N. So, that was the leadership team when I first got there, was Swann, Dixon and Kyseir. So, Colonel Kyseir-- and this is true in any profession, you get a mixed bag sometimes. So, they don't what kind of Chaplain they're going to get. And it can go with, you know, put in the profession, what kind of doc they're going, that sort of thing. And the infantry battalion is great. It is the- the- the smallest level that a Chaplain will serve with. And it's also, that's the backbone of the Marine Corps. That's where your Lance Corporals are, your NCOs and your up and coming leadership, your First and Second Lieutenants that are going to be those future leaders in the Marine Corps. They're right there. And so you get to work with these guys. And I say guys, in infantry battalion, it's still all male, so I'll be saying guys a lot in this interview.

Zarbock: Which is not a sexist remark.

Williams: Exactly, thank you, sir. So, these guys were, you know, they're just awesome to work with and the funny things that come up which we'll get into. But one of them, Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel Kysier, when I went in to have my first interview with him, was [inaudible] "Sir, I'm your Chaplain," those sorts of things. And he asked me, I'll never forget this, he wanted to know if I was a meat eater or a salad eater. And I said "Sir?" And he said "No, I don't mean, are you a vegetarian. I mean are you a meat eater or are you a salad eater? Cause around here we're meat eaters." "Yes, sir, I love my steak, medium well, thank you." (laughs) The point he was making though was, you know, this battalion's getting ready to war again and to make sure that there's a certain mind set that you want in that situation. He wasn't saying that one was bad over the other, but in this given scenario, in this given situation...

Zarbock: Do you fit?

Williams: Do you fit? Exactly. Do you know enough about this organization and the culture that you're apart of. And he didn't know me from Adam at that point. One thing we did have in common together which kind of helped was he was at ________________ before as well, prior to the Marine Barracks Washington. And so we had that in common to talk about and that got us started. But again, I only had him for about a month. And then I got Lieutenant Colonel Minick and he's the CO that we actually went into Iraq with. And the COs, they're great, as far as, you know, they don't know, again, what that type of Chaplain is that they're going to get. I remember another story when I was on the cruiser, and we were doing the hall swap that I was telling you about. I had Captain Mason [ph?] on the Calpins [Ph?]; he was going to staying with the Calpins in Japan as the CO of that ship. And the CO Captain Ed Rogers [ph?] was the CO of the Mobile Bay [ph?]. He was going to bring the Mobile Bay partly, part of the way back. He was going to be doing-- we were going to be doing a change of command about mid way. We ended up doing it in it was either Saipan or Guam. I think it was Guam. So, I had him for about two months. But I'll never forget my first meeting with him. The Chaplains, we run what's called a Command Religious Program, that's what I talked with you a little bit about earlier when you said, well what do I do as Chaplain. I run the commanding officer's--this is the text book answer, I run the commanding officer's Command Religious Program, which entails making sure that religious freedom is provided for everybody in the command. We provide, facilitate and care for everybody. We provide for our own, facilitate for others, care for all. Like I said, this is kind of the text book answer. And of course, we'd just come out of Chaplain school, you know, coming on active duty my head was full of text book knowledge and so I go in, report to Captain Rogers and I'll never forget this cause he-- I said, "Sir, I'm here to talk to you about what my ideas are about the Command Religious Program." And he said "But that's easy Chaplain," straight faced. And he's a great CO, I wish I knew- knew where he was now, if he's retired or not. But he said "That's easy Chaplain, your ideas are my ideas." Back in the box, "Roger that, sir. This is your command religious program. What do you see tweaked and stuff?" And again, he didn't know me from Adam. And his point was though that I hadn't been at the command long enough to make suggestions, "Get to know it a little better." And he was- he was absolutely right. You get to know the command and you get to know your people, then you can offer suggestions and advise to the CO. And that's another thing that Chaplains do, we offer moral and ethical advice, not to the junior marines and sailors, but to the COs to be available for them. And with them, I heard it said, that you know, you offer advice and counsel and such to the junior marines and sailors, but with the senior marines and sailors, you just let them know that you're available so that they know that, you know, you're there for them as well. And then as you build that relationship with them, then you can offer that advice and guidance.

Zarbock: But again, you have to prove yourself.

Williams: Yes, sir, very much so, very much so. And I'm sure he would laugh about it now, but it was dead serious at the point. It was like "That's easy Chaplain, your thoughts are my thoughts." It's like "Yes, sir, they are."

Zarbock: Well, when you went into Iraq how did you-- as naïve as this question is, you got off the ship, you got onto Iraq, how did you get off the ship and in [inaudible].

Williams: Oh, yes sir, we actually didn't take the ship to Iraq, they fly the marines and the soldiers there now. So, contract with civilian air and they--that's one of the big issues with what we call warrior transition, is helping with when we get back from deployment, because it happens so quickly. But, yes sir, we did our training cycle all the way up through and then got on the airplane in July of '05 and about 48 hours later you're in-- you land in Kuwait and then you fly again into-- the way we flew, we went from Cherry Point up to Bangor, Maine and then from Maine we shot over to Ireland and from Ireland down to Kuwait and then from Kuwait, they throw everybody in C-130s. This is what they were doing at the time. This is common knowledge so it's nothing I shouldn't be talking about. They threw us all in the plane and we landed in Taqaddum, TQ is what-- you might hear people talking about "I'm stationed at TQ, Iraq," it's Taqaddum, it's the air base. And then from TQ, they convoyed us in buses, no excuse me, no, in trucks, the gun trucks and such to Fallujah. We were in Fallujah in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq and we were in Fallujah.

Zarbock: And again, what year was this?

Williams: This was from July of '05 to February of '06, seven month period.

Zarbock: What was combat situation at that time and what this morale of your troops?

Williams: Well, once you get there, morale is high. What I mean by that is you have the uncertainty before you get there, you know. Some of the marines are wondering, am I going to re-enlist, am I to stay, am I going to make that commitment to go a second, third, some of them fourth time, you know those sorts of things. But once you get everybody there and in that mindset, then you're there and it's more than-- it transcends political and, you know-- of course we talked about being patriotic and you know, we're there because we're doing the mission that-- of our senior leadership wants us to do and we support that and what it is that they have us to do. But when you ask that Lance Corporal why he's there, we call it the Strategic Lance Corporal, he's there for the marine on either side of him, on his left and on his right. And that's what they're using to carry them through. I mean, yes they can talk about the geo-political situation and the-- and they're smart, they really are, you know there's a mentality out there sometimes, a myth about the dumb ______________________ or the dumb marine and that's so false. These are guys are brilliant. I had- I had a marine in one of my companies, I say "my" because I was their Chaplain, I had a marine in one of my companies that had a four year business degree and worked on Wall Street and because of 9-11, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He didn't become an officer, he could have easily gone that route, and he was a Lance Corporal. Now his challenge was actually following orders because he wanted to always provide his input and his advice, but he was a good guy. Then I had lots of guys that had their educational experience, well read. So, these aren't just guys blindly following orders, they're very smart. The reason why-- what motivates them and keeps them going among-- I like to think that there's a spiritual aspect in there too, being the Chaplain, but just looking out for each other and making sure that they get through that together, the marine on the left and the marine on the right. And supporting the mission of the commander, what our commander, what his goals are, what he wants to accomplish while we're there and making sure that we do what we can to support that.

Zarbock: What were your duties?

Williams: My duties were to do my fighting hole visits, which was a reality this time, it wasn't just office spaces, it was fighting holes.

Zarbock: How would you get there?

Williams: I would go in convoy. We had-- the particular-- now this various in Iraq, you might have different Chaplains offering you, you know, different ways of how they got around, but where we were, we were located outside of the city of Fallujah in an area called Camp Fallujah, that's the military base that we were on. And we actually operated out of Camp Fallujah in a little section of the camp. And we would go out and we were given a battle space. And the area that we were given, we were responsible for doing route security, making sure that the routes were open and clear of IEDs, those sorts of things. And then we also had the mission of helping with the elections process, because that was a big thing at that time while we were there and training of the Iraqi Army, and Iraqi police, working with them. Those are three big things that our Commander Lieutenant Colonel Minick really wanted us to focus on. Sir, if you ever see this, you know, if you remember that I remember-- what his three things were, he wanted to work with the Iraqi Army, the people that we were supposed to be training to make sure that the route security and things like that were taken care of and again to-- we had a specific area in Fallujah, our battle space that we were given. It would shift, boundaries would shift throughout the deployment a little bit, but we had a major area, and again this is common knowledge, the area of Karma [ph?] that was to the, let's see here, to the northeast of- of Fallujah. And it was in between-- actually Karma is in between Fallujah and Baghdad, not quite directly 50/50, but it's pretty close. And so there was a lot of action there as far as making sure the routes were open.

Zarbock: What was your living quarters?

Williams: Our living quarters were in Camp Fallujah and we had a bombed out area from the first--from the Persian Gulf War that never got rebuilt. We had some bombed out buildings and that's where- that's were we lived. We made that home, ran-- had the marines that had the background and the contractors as well for generators, electricity. We had electricity, of course we didn't have running water, we drank bottled water, that's what- what the marines and the soldiers drink over there, everything is bottled water. The chow was unbelievable. The best, no kidding, the best food I have ever had was at the-- as far as chow hall food or ship's food, that sort of thing was in Iraq at the dining facilities. There the KBR, the Kellogg Brown and Root contractors, they have these dining facilities, they call them DFACs , dining facility, and they'd just pull all the stops out for the chow. Thanksgiving and Christmas was a feast, like you would see at any five star hotel. They baked baked goods; some things were purchased off the local economy, as far as dairy products and things like that, but just all out for the food. It was-- so there's my plug for that. There was a-- it was wonderful, we ate very well. These are the guys-- we- we were blessed because of where were at, at Fallujah, at Camp Fallujah. My guys that were out-- because we would actually-- the battalion is made up of three rifle companies and then a weapons company and the headquarters and service company. The weapons company was mobile, they were in the vehicle, so they provided the route security. The three rifle companies were on a rotating basis assigned to what we call observation posts, OPs. Some places they even call them FOBs, forward operating bases, in and around Karma and the area there. So, they would rotate back and forth. So, while they were all out there, they had MREs, the meal ready to eat chow. So, that wasn't so good after you eat it several days in a row. But we would push hot chow out to them once a week, or excuse me, twice a week. And that's how I would get out there to visit them. I would go on the hot chow runs. To answer a question that you had asked me earlier, that's how I would get around to the fighting holes to visit my guys.

Zarbock: It is Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday, and you get up in this bombed out building, now it's not air-conditioned, I assume.

Williams: It is. We had air-conditioning.

Zarbock: How did you do that?

Williams: The-- again the- the area of Iraq, and I can't speak to Afghanistan, I never have been there or served there, the-- but in Iraq, the way that the war has progressed, the infrastructure is built up as well, as far as the supply for the military. And so what an OIF vet from the first or second go around tells you will be different than what my experience is. Even the person after me might tell you there's hard structures there now and running water, I don't know. But for while we were there, they brought in AC units and-- portable AC units, so we had those there, we had the generators. We even had those out at those OPs, so the marines who were-- no they didn't have the KBR chow, but we did make sure they had mattresses, beds, they had bottled water that was contracted to take out to them, Gatorade, they had AC units, so were taken care of. It wasn't like it was in the first part of the war. So, we actually AC units.

Zarbock: So, it's a Thursday or a Tuesday or any day of the week and you get up in the morning, what time would you get up in the morning?

Williams: I would usually get up between 6:30 and 7:00.

Zarbock: And you would put on your shoes and what you [inaudible]?

Williams: I would. I would get up my RP, my Religious Programs Specialist, RP3 Mallard, M-A-L-L-A-R-D, like the duck. We- we shared the same space. So, we would get up at about 7:00, 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning. He would go off to chow and I'm not a big breakfast eater and so I would usually have a little something right there in our hooch, our little fighting space right there. People would send care packages to us, and so we had crackers and peanut butter or I would bring some fruit from the chow hall and things like, we had little V-8 drinks and stuff like that. So, I would have that and a little morning devotional time. And then every morning we had a morning brief, a battle update brief. And so every morning I would make my way over to the brief where all the staff would come together.

Zarbock: Who gave the briefing?

Williams: The staff, we all would brief the CO on what was going on. No, I take that back, that was the morning staff meeting, the battle update brief was once a week and that was either on Friday or Saturday. And that was the big picture, as far as, that's what our CO would get from his CO what we needed to be doing and changes and thing like that. But we had a morning brief every morning that we would brief what the different staff sections were doing, what the companies were doing.

Zarbock: Were you a contributor to the briefing?

Williams: Oh, yes sir.

Zarbock: And what would be your contribution?

Williams: I would just comment on different things. Like if I was going out on a particular convoy to go visit at the observation posts, anything that the Regimental Chaplain would want me to pass as far as religious holy days that were coming up so that people would be aware of those, especially in planning operations and things like. Any upcoming services that I was going to be conducting, a reminder, because, you know, you get into this tempo of things and it's- it's fluid, in that there's some things that stay the same but it's still in motion. So, sometimes they would forget when the services were, so I would remind them, oh, hey, that's the, you know, this time or that time will be a service.

Zarbock: The word convoy has been used often by you and it appears ubiquitously on TV and in the radio. How many trucks characteristically would be in a convoy?

Williams: Oh sure. Well, you weren't allowed to go outside the wire, with-- what we call outside the wire, meaning going outside of the friendly lines, protected area, with a minimum of-- you had to have a minimum of four vehicles.

Zarbock: Were any of these battle vehicles?

Williams: Yes, sir, you had to have at least two gun trucks. Everybody-- well, everybody had something, but-- and that is a blanket statement but it was true. I mean in a combat area, everybody in the vehicle will have something or have access to something, so...

Zarbock: Except you.

Williams: Except me, yes sir. That's why I have my RP with me. And so you have the gun trucks with you and all that sort of stuff as well.

Zarbock: And you'd swing on board the truck and off you'd go.

Williams: Yes, sir, in the Humvee. Usually I rode in a Humvee. Occasionally I rode in the seven tons, the trucks. And then we would role. But after the- after the brief, so you typically we would either--I would go around visiting-- because I could only push out when those trucks went and so I would go out-- and that was my best way of seeing all my guys too, because the hot chow would hit all of those observations posts and [inaudible].

Zarbock: How many would there be? Again, this is general.

Williams: Oh, yes, sir. We had probably about--scattered between-- I'll tell you at our busiest time, before they changed our battle space and all that kind of stuff around, we probably had about eight or nine observation posts, of forward operating units.

Zarbock: How many men in a post?

Williams: Oh, that depended on the company. Some companies had more, some companies had less, so one company is usually about 175 marines. So, you would have 175 marines divided between maybe three or four OPs, observation posts.

Zarbock: So, it was a fairly well manned post.

Williams: Oh, yes sir. We had a couple that only had maybe ten. But the majority of them, they would rotate around and that sort of thing. We had camps and they would go out and do the patrols in and around Karma and other areas that we were responsible for. So, we would go out and we would ride with them on the hot chow and the- the truck that sucks out the porta-johns [ph?] (laughs). The marines have a name for that, it's called the relay [ph?] and they would- they would take that and that would be a part of the convoy too. Cause that was a serv- a service that contractors provided. So, hot chow and blank relay would all go around together and we would get out there and that was my best way of seeing everybody. And it would be about-- I'd try to go out and see everybody about every 10 days.

Zarbock: I never thought about social tripod as containing hot food a porta-potty and a Chaplain.

Williams: Yeah, yes sir. (laughs)

Zarbock: The three necessities.

Williams: The three necessities, yes sir. (laughs).

Zarbock: And again, I asked you off camera, and this might be a point to point in your presentation to reset, issues of remembrances of sorrow and sadness.

Williams: Sorrow and sadness? Yes, sir. It- it's combat and there are things associated with that as well, times of sadness and sorrow. I just remembered a happy one though. Can I tell you [inaudible] first?

Zarbock: Let's go, yeah.

Williams: Okay. It's funny. So, we were at one of the observation posts, gone out there with my guys and-- this was one that I was going to stay the night at. Because sometimes I would go out and stay two or three nights, but I would always have to come back to that camp, because you would catch it in between the convoys. So I would go out with the convoys, stay at this observation post and then a couple of days later when that convoy would coming back it was a-- you know, you would ride back with them. So, I was at this one particular observation post and you could hear the mortar fire. The Iraqis in the particular area, the insurgents I should say, it's not the Iraqis, but the insurgents were-- they would mortar this particular position on a regular basis. And fortunately for us they are not very-- weren't very good at it, very accurate where we were. And so you would hear that thump, thump, thump noise and you knew that the mortars were coming. And I had been out there before and I was with this particular Lance Corporal Nelson, N-E-L-S-O-N. And we were at one of the observation posts on top of the building and I was visiting, going from their gun positions, just going around visiting and I was with Lance Corporal Nelson, visiting him and you hear this thump, thump, thump. And he's like "Don't worry Chaplain, it's just that time of day. He'll probably hit long over there." And sure enough, you know, you hear three impacts, boom, boom, boom. And so we're talking and chatting and then you hear the hiss. And the hiss is the RPG. And he looked at me and his eyes got as big as saucers and he said "We better duck now Chaplain." So we got down and then it impacted on the road just below us and it kicked up dirt and debris and everything like that. But that's one of those moments. I always remember Lance Corporal Nelson. He just looked at me and said, "We better duck now, sir." It was okay while the mortars were going, but when you heard that.

Zarbock: Now, there's a man who really has an orientation to his environment.

Williams: Yes, yes he did. He's a good kid.

Zarbock: Were you in Iraq over a Christmas season?

Williams: Yes, sir, I was.

Zarbock: What was that like?

Williams: It was the first time I'd ever been deployed away from my family at a-- on a major holiday like that at Christmas. I'd been gone over birthdays and anniversaries. We have a joke, in fact, my wife and I have been married, going on-- well 17 years. And about half those I've been around for. And so, this was the first major holiday I had been deployed. So for even me personally it was different as far as there was times where it was sad. Because I was raised, with my family background, you know, Christmas is a big deal and lots of family and food and things like that around. I think a lot of people's experience around Christmas or whatever other religious holiday going on. You know they think about those sorts of things. So, it was hard. But what made it easy was, again, knowing that you're looking out and providing care for the marine or sailor on that left and right and just the overwhelming support of care packages and stuff that came in. So, on Christmas Eve, we got stockings for everybody in the battalion and I went out there with the hot chow relay, because we were going to hot chow for them on Christmas Eve and I made sure every marine or sailor that was with us got a stocking. So, 1,100 marines got their stocking on Christmas Eve. So we-- those are the little things like that that we tried to do. And we had a reserve group that was attached to us from Texas and they were running the trucks. And so I got a picture of us all in front before going out on the convoy taking the- taking the stockings out. And so there wasn't really a typical day. I mean there were certain things that were the same. I'd get up, have my morning meeting routine, but then I'd go around visiting there on the camp or I'd have interaction with the Regimental Chaplain, Chaplain Dale White [ph?] whom I mentioned earlier. In planning and receiving the care packages, the different things like that, and it kind of leads into, you know, some of the sad stuff that- that happens is reality of war. Where we were located at, was also going to be the casualty evacuation route. And so, whenever our marines or sailors go hurt or killed, they would go to Fallujah Surgical, which was the military hospital right there. And so, I was relatively close, and so I was there for just about every casualty that we had. And so I would go there with my RP and we would meet up there at Fallujah Surgical and we would-- sometimes he was there, sometimes he wasn't. But we would be there and we would just be with the guys. So, the- the casualties would come in and we would hear it at the command post. And they would try to get a hold of me and the battalion surgeon Mark Banks [ph?], he's a good friend of mine, my battle buddy during Iraq. And we would load up in a Toyota Land Cruiser that-- civilian vehicles were allowed within the compound and so each battalion had one or two of these that we would-- if you were where we were at. So, we would go over to Fallujah Surgical and after we heard it over the radio we would link up, go over to Fallujah Surgical and just, he would do what he does well, the medical stuff and helping where he could and then I would go and be with the guys on the spiritual side. And again, even there, you have stuff from- from tragedy, we lost 16 marines-- 15 marines and one sailor, all the way to the- to the funny and the humorous even. We had two guys, lucky for them I can't remember their names so I won't embarrass them, but they both got shot in the rear. There was a piece of fragment from a- and IED I think that went off. I don't think it was an RPG, rocket propelled grenade, but I think it was an improvised explosive device. So, I go in and they're laying on the table and their faces are-- they're laying on their stomachs and they're faces are facing each other and one has a piece of shrapnel on one side of his butt cheek and the other guy has a piece of shrapnel on the other side and they're just talking and laughing and it was-- it was pretty funny. Of course, they'd describe it a little different than what I will on the video, but the three of us shared a- shared a little laugh there and-- [inaudible] was it tragic, you know, that they got wounded? Yes. Their families, I'm sure were worried about them, but even in that, we knew that everybody's okay, they're getting the medical care that they needed and...

Zarbock: As a Chaplain, did you have any role in alerting the family back in the States that so and so had been wounded?

Williams: Not when you're forward deployed, no, sir. Oh, wounded, yes. Because what we do, the way that the Marine Corps' casualty response is set up, the notification is made within 24 hours and so what we would do is, if it was a casualty where they could talk, I had a satellite phone. And we would get them on the phone so that they could contact their loved one back at home before the official message came.

Zarbock: "Hello mom, hello dad, I'm okay."

Williams: Exactly. And that we would-- that was just our battalion's policy. Not every battalion did that, ours did. We had the satellite phone right there and I would punch in the number and say "Here, let them know you're okay."

Zarbock: Were there certain levels of wounds that if the wound consisted beyond such and such you would be returned to the States?

Williams: Yes, sir. Exactly, yes sir.

Zarbock: And who would make those decisions?

Williams: That would be the medical staff at Fallujah Surgical. The battalion was out of the loop with that. Even our battalion surgeon had no influence on that. That was the Fallujah Surgical, it was a O6 [ph?] Navy Captain that would make that call, who would be evacuated out.

Zarbock: In the case of a death or casualty, what would be your role?

Williams: My role would be to-- two pronged. It would be to be-- to-- after the body would be brought back to Fallujah Surgical, then we had a coroner who was on staff there, and his job would be to-- decedent affairs, his job would be to prep the remains for evacuation back to the next level. And so my job would be to go in after the remains had been taken care of properly, would be to go and say a prayer of psalm over the remains so that we could let the family know, "Yes, a prayer was said, a psalm was read." In the case where the marine was Catholic, I would go and ask the priest to come and do the- the last rites. And there was once incident where there was a Jewish marine as well. And so we read the mourner's prayer for them, so that the family-- cause that's all documented down, so the family would know that those particular rites [inaudible].

Zarbock: So, you don't get in touch with the decedent's family directly?

Williams: No, sir.

Zarbock: You document that these are the conditions that have taken place.

Williams: Correct. Now, if I was State side, depending on where I was located at, they do use the Chaplain in the notification process. And that's the CACO, Casualty Assistance Call Officer. The CACO team always has a Chaplain, well ideally, has a Chaplain go out with them. And so, the Chaplains that were left behind at Lejeune while we were forward deployed, that was their job. For instance if the marine was married and he was wounded or, obviously worst case situation, was killed, that CACO team would go to Mrs. Marine's house and they would make the notification. And they- they kind of know at that point, I mean, you see Marines showing up in their Alphas and the Navy Chaplain in his Dress Blues, you kind of know something's up. Those-- I- I never had to do that while I was at Lejeune. A couple of my buddies did, and they said that was the hardest thing they ever had to do, was to go and talk to the family. They would rather be back with the unit or, you know, just dealing with the Marines and the tragedy and stuff going on there than to go and look a wife or a mother or kids in the face and to- and to tell them.

Zarbock: Chaplain, I've asked all of the Chaplains this question. In your military career was there ever an event in which you were ordered or suggested or hinted or nudge and a wink to do something that you thought was in violation of your personal ethic and your religious beliefs?

Williams: No, sir.

Zarbock: That's been the universal answer.

Williams: No, the commanding officers and the senior leadership that generally that would come from; they know why we're there, to be that ethical moral advisor. They don't want-- the CO's that I've worked for, had the privilege of working with, including the last one that went out with the MEU who I think is phenomenal, Lieutenant Colonel Starling [ph?] he had-- in fact he had asked me if I would stay with the battalion, normally Chaplains get moved around within the division and he asked if I would stay with the battalion and deploy with him. I knew him from before and I said "Yes, sir, I will go with you." And he's a phenomenal guy. They don't want "yes" men. They want to be-- now, you know, in the military and the nature of the culture that we- we work in, there's a way to descent. And so you tell him "Sir, I don't think this is going to work." "Well, Chaplain, this is the way I want to do it." "Okay, sir. Well, I've said my piece. I will support you as much as I can in what it is that you're going to do." Has it ever crossed the moral ethical boundaries for me? No.

Zarbock: But criticism to a higher command must be data based. You can't say whimsically, "Oh, I don't think you ought to do." You've got to have a reason, a substantiated reason for your remark.

Williams: Oh, yes, sir. Right. Exactly. Yes, sir. Yes sir.

Zarbock: By the way, we're rounding a corner here. What are your duties here at the Chaplain School?

Williams: Oh, yes sir. I- I just reported here to the Chaplain School, two weeks ago.

Zarbock: You're back home again.

Williams: I'm back home. I finished up my deployment on the 30th of June and just detached from division on the 13th of July and spent this last couple of weeks in moving and getting my family settled in, up here in Newport, Rhode Island. My duties here, I'm going to be-- I guess someone has a sense of humor. They- they- they're going to have me on the instructor's staff, instructing with the basic course, is what I'm told. So, the Chaplains that are coming in that are- that are new, going through their basic indoctrination course to be Chaplains, I get to instruct them.

Zarbock: Are you going to ask that same question, "Can you learn?"

Williams: Can you learn? Are you teachable? Yes, sir. That one and my favorite one is from a CO that I had at 8th&I, Colonel Dan O'Brian, O-'-B-R-I-A-N. Colonel O'Brian in talking about 8th&I, 8th&I is the repository of history and tradition for the Marine Corps. That's where the home of the Commandant is, that's where a lot of the senior general officers actually live. There's some, I think it's a series of four or five houses where they live right there, the parades, anything ceremonial to do in D.C. or the surrounding area of that area, provide Presidential support of Camp David, the whole nine yards, a very prestigious place. Well, Colonel O'Brian comes in and he says "Gentlemen, remember that this is a special place and we get to do really special things, but remember that you're not special." (laughs) And so a little dose of humility there. And that's one of the things that I hope I can pass on, is that, you know, we're- we're-- this is a special place, not just here at the Chaplain School, but to be a Chaplain. And we get to do really special cool things. Going into combat with the Marines, going out in the field with them, living with them, doing what they do, being on the ships and the- the life cycle that entails with being on that. So, we get to do really cool things. But at the end of the day, just remember we're not that special.

Zarbock: I've got one remark and two questions. The remark is, you remind me of that phrase that "the graveyards are filled with indispensable people."

Williams: Yes, sir. (laughs) That's good.

Zarbock: Okay, question number one, of two. Of all your life experiences, educational, personal, _______________, coming of age, buddies, successes and sometimes the tragedies that befall all of us, what sort of credo have you put together for Chaplain Williams in the year of our Lord 2007, on the 13th of August? What's it all mean?

Williams: That- that God has a purpose and a plan for each of us and in believing that and helping others to find out what that is. For me, I- I knew that God's purpose and plan was to be a Chaplain. And for some people it's to be an instructor or a professor, to be whatever, but to- to just in- in helping them to see that. And sometimes that's not easy. Either they don't want to see or they can't see or they don't believe it. And that's okay, you can't force it on anybody. But...

Zarbock: And not all roads are smooth sailing. Smooth in traveling.

Williams: No, sir. No. So, I guess for me, just knowing personally-- so I to take that belief on board and then out of Joshua 1:9, where- where he's saying-- God says "I know the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper you." Not financially, I don't mean it like that, it gets lost in translation, but the Hebrew meaning there, forgive me for any Hebrew scholars that are listening or ever watch this, but I think the meaning behind prosperous is the whole being, the whole, you know, it's more than just monetary. But, "I know the plans that I have, plans to prosper to you and plans to not harm you." And so, in looking back over, even when I'm going through the difficult times, even when were in Iraq and-- it had pleasant moments there. I'm not going to lie to you. Even though we were in the middle of combat, there were times when the weather was pleasant, times when Mark Banks and I, my battle buddy shared a couple of good laughs. And then there were times when we cried together and the casualties and things like that. But through it all, knowing that God's plan isn't to hurt me but it's to cause me to grow and to- to be to the place that he wants me to be. And not where Ted Williams thinks that he needs to be. And so, that's what I guess I- what I would use.

Zarbock: And the final question.

Williams: Yes, sir.

Zarbock: Is there anything else you'd like to say?

Williams: Is there anything else I would like to say? I would be remiss if I did not mention, again, the importance that Kelly [ph?] has been throughout this whole thing.

Zarbock: Who is to be the mother of a third child, I understand.

Williams: Who is to be the mother of a third Williams. Lord help us, there will be a third one running around. But just for, again all the support that she's provided, yeah, the stuff that she's done, yeah, I couldn't do it without her. And the emotional support that she provided, being, I had people there that were with me, Chaplain White, that I know he and I cried together a couple of times with the casualty situation and stuff like that. But to know that Kelly was there with me, spiritually and emotionally and-- you got me.

Zarbock: Lieutenant, Lieutenant, it's a privilege to know you, sir. Thank you for the time.

Williams: Yes, sir.

Zarbock: Nobody has time, you make time. And I'm privileged that you made time. Thank you, sir.

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