June 29, 2011
Virginia Guard chaplain serving Soldiers in Kosovo
By 1st Lt. Casey Staheli
200th Public Affairs Detachment
PRISTINA, Kosovo — All who join the military serve our great nation, but not all get to serve their fellow Soldiers.
Capt. Jeffrey Hicks, deputy chaplain for Multinational Battle Group East, and Spc. Michael Aton, his chaplain’s assistant, stand at the entrance to the Camp Bondsteel chapel. Hicks has played an instrumental role in Soldier morale and spiritual welfare in the months he has served in Kosovo. (Photo by 1st Lt. Casey Staheli, 200th Public Affairs Detachment)
Capt. Jeffery Hicks, deputy chaplain, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo is one of those rare Soldiers who gets the chance to serve his country and his fellow Soldiers.
Hicks provides Protestant worship services and other forms of support to the Soldiers of Multinational Battle Group East.
“I get to continue practicing my faith while here, making me feel connected to those back home,” said Sgt. Jake Day, a UH-60 Black Hawk technical inspector.
"As a chaplain, I strive to connect Soldiers to God whether it is through a Bible study, chapel service, prayer, MP3 Bible stick, DVD or a good conversation,” Hicks said. “To be able to share the Gospel with Soldiers is a great privilege and is achieved through various means."
One of those means is a praise band.
“It’s just a wonderful thing that the Soldiers made happen,” said Hicks. “For them it was a labor of love. The members come from all ranks and backgrounds and they make awesome music.”
First Lt. Eboni Sherrer, analyst control element battle captain, was one of the Soldiers instrumental in getting the praise band going.
“I enjoy it a lot,” said Sherrer. “Rank doesn’t matter here, people come together and worship freely, which helps form more of a community.”
For those searching for a deeper spiritual growth, Hicks sponsors three bible study groups.
One of these groups, The Truth Project, is delivered in a classroom setting facilitated by videos with topics focusing on the role of truth in society, religion, morals, ethics and anything where people interact, said Hicks.
“Our 1 John study group takes us through 1 John, where we discuss the teachings that are contained within it,” he said.
Other Bible study groups are also offered.
“We are also starting a new ladies study group,” said Hicks. “I wanted to give the female Soldiers the chance to meet together and buildup and support one another.”
While Hicks is here to serve and support his brothers and sisters in arms he also finds them strengthening him.
“When I need to be lifted up, I find strength in prayer, in the Bible and in support from meeting together with fellow Soldiers,” Hicks said.
Not all of the services come from a classroom or chapel setting. Hicks, who enjoys the outdoors and sporting activities, has found other ways to connect with Soldiers.
The best interactions with Soldiers happen outside of chapel, where as a chaplain, you’re out there always being supportive and building relationships of trust, Hicks said.
“You have to be a Soldier, understand them, train with them, eat, sleep and play with them,” acknowledges Hicks. “It’s great to have fun and be involved in good things because you become really cohesive and form tight bonds.”
It is the bonds of team work that make Hicks successful in his ministry endeavors.
“My chaplain assistant and I form a Unit Ministry Team,” said Hicks. “I emphasize and highlight the role of the chaplain assistant and recognize his specific contributions in ministry performed.”
The chaplain assistant helps with administrative duties, operational and logistical support and provides protection for the chaplain.
It’s a fun job going out and working with Soldiers and getting to know them and help them with what they are struggling with, said Spc. Michael Aton, chaplain assistant.
“Chaplain Hicks and I have a real good working relationship,” said Aton. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot from him [Hicks].”
Another team that helps Hicks out is his family.
"I am deeply grateful for my family and their strong, unwavering support for my service while deployed,” said Hicks. “Their prayers and support are integral and provide confidence, optimism and enthusiasm to achieve success in the mission."
Hicks, who has enjoyed his military career as a chaplain, admits it almost didn’t happen.
“Out of high school I wanted to join, but didn’t bite at the time and instead let doubt persuade me, but the urge didn’t get out of my system,” said Hicks.
Years later, after Hicks got settled and had a congregation of his own, the desire to serve in the military rose again.
“I felt a godly nudge to join the military and walked over to the recruiter’s office and said, sign me up,” recalls Hicks. “At the time I had no idea what I was going to do, but then the recruiter asked what my civilian job was and I said was a pastor and he said, 'Great we need chaplains.'”
When asked if that “godly nudge” was right, Hicks laughs and quickly responds, “Absolutely right. I have the opportunity to serve Soldiers, God and country. I'm indebted to God Himself for working in and through me every day. I see His hand in daily events and the evidence of His power."
For Hicks, the most rewarding part about serving in Kosovo is simply doing his job.
“I love taking care of the commander’s Soldiers and bringing God to Soldiers and Soldiers to God,” Hicks said.
Hicks will have the next six months to continue serving and supporting the U.S. and its Soldiers here in Kosovo.
Upon his return to the U.S. following the deployment Hicks hopes to continue serving and supporting military members as a chaplain or return to a civilian chaplaincy or denominational church vocation.