Army Guardsman named 'Chaplain of the Year'
By Staff Sgt. S. Patrick McCollum
National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va. (7/9/09) - Chaplains have a myriad of reasons for
serving their country, but recognition is usually not one of them.
"Chaplains are often in the position where we love to serve so much, it's
always a surprise to be rewarded for it," said Army Capt. Rebekah
Montgomery, who will receive the "Chaplain of the Year" award from the
Association July 17.
A Unitarian Universalist chaplain serving at both the Army National
Guard Readiness Center, Arlington, Va., and Maryland's 58th Troop Command,
Montgomery, she has been a student of religion since high school.
She found that religion fascinated her. "I was always drawn to how people
negotiate their daily lives with the experience of the spiritual," said
Montgomery, who grew up in Bethesda, Md. "I got so much stimulation out of
understanding other faith traditions and I still do."
After an 18-month tour in Afghanistan, Montgomery found herself back
in Maryland with two jobs. One weekend a month, she is the brigade chaplain
in the 58th TC, a job that she says keeps her grounded in the "M-Day" unit
"With my state, that's where the real nuts-and-bolts mission is,"
"I feel like I'm staying in touch and serving at the local level."
During the week at the readiness center, she focuses on a broader
mission, advising high-level officials on spiritual issues.
"My position at NGB is sort of an aide-de-camp for a general,"
she said. "You
go places and see things you would never see in an M-Day unit."
At the readiness center, Montgomery has also participated in the
recent Suicide Prevention Stand-Down, making herself available to Soldiers
who need counseling.
"Suicide has been an issue I have seen deployed, in the field, and
on drill weekends," she said. "It's a fact of life, and is something
chaplains are often involved in."
While Montgomery feels she has made a contribution, she said it is
hard to trace. Morale and the number of infractions can be indicators, but
one can't measure exactly something that didn't happen.
"We don't see the direct results, but we trust God is using us in a
profound and positive way," she said. "You can't quantify how many divorces
didn't happen. You can't quantify how many suicides didn't happen."
Her efforts have been noticed though, and Montgomery said she never
forgets the reason she was nominated.
"Just having the opportunity to serve Soldiers is the greatest
mission on earth."