Tag Archives: jeff struecker

Chaplain Chosen for US Army Ranger Hall of Fame

Update: The ceremony was covered here.

Each year a select few are chosen to be elevated to the Ranger Hall of Fame, and this year a local Georgia pastor has made the cut.

That pastor is Jeff Struecker (website) of Calvary Baptist Church in Columbus, Georgia. He is also former Sgt Struecker, Army Ranger during the fight in Somalia immortalized in Black Hawk Down, who eventually became US Army Chaplain (Maj) Struecker. Struecker, then, is probably a rare theologian inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame.

A recent interview Struecker gave Read more

Navy Seal, Now Army Chaplain, Ministers in Iraq

US Army Chaplain (Capt) Geoffrey Whitaker, the garrison Chaplain at COB Marez, Iraq, took a unique path to the Chaplaincy.  He was originally a Navy SEAL; in 2003, he fell during a helicopter speed rope and crushed his skull.  Doctors gave him a 10% chance of survival, with far less a chance he’d ever recover.

He rejoined his SEALs within 12 months.

He said he owes his recovery to the thousands of people praying for him around the world.  Read more

“Blackhawk Down” Pilot Relied on God

The story of how Army Sgt Jeff Struecker became US Army Chaplain Struecker is fairly well-known.  Less publicized is the faith of Michael Durant, the helicopter pilot whose UH-60 Blackhawk was shot down over Mogadishu; the shootdown ultimately resulted in the deaths of his crew at the hands of the Somalis.  Also killed were two Delta snipers, MSG Gary Gordon and SFC Randall Shughart, who received the Medal of Honor after volunteering to mount a vastly outnumbered defense for the beleaguered survivors.

Durant was a speaker at a National Prayer Luncheon at the US Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Alabama.  He said that prayer was central to his survival:  Read more

A Chilling Call: Aircraft Down

The Supervisor of Flying, a pilot stationed in the control tower to oversee flight operations on the airfield, received a call from local emergency responders relaying reports of a loud boom and possible fireball.  A roll call of all airborne aircraft revealed one aircraft missing.  Officers around the base opened their Mishap Response Checklists.  An aircraft was down.

The controllers stopped all further launches and began the task of recovering other aircraft that were airborne; the assets of the base as well as the local community were now focused on the rescue and recovery of the downed aircraft and crew.  An air traffic controller guided an experienced pilot to the last known location of the aircraft, and the crash location was fixed.  Helicopters flown by local law enforcement and the US Marines were dispatched to the crash site.  Simultaneously, officers throughout the base began the procedures of securing all equipment associated with the flight–from the maintenance records of the aircraft to the pilot’s gradebook and records.  Ultimately, a commander would don his service dress uniform and request the accompaniment of a Chaplain.

Regrettably, the fighter pilot career field is a dangerous one.  In this case, Read more

Army Chaplain Pastors Rangers

In a video at the Baptist Press, Chaplain (Capt) Jeff Struecker speaks about the spiritual support he gives the trainees at the US Army Ranger School.

The more difficult the circumstances, the more receptive they are to issues of faith…

There is an urgency for me to share the gospel of Jesus Christ…

My heroes are Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airman, and I can’t think of a greater privilege than to be a pastor to a group of my heroes.

The Chaplain is the former Staff Sergeant Struecker of Blackhawk Down fame.  One of his stories is recounted in Stories from a Soldier’s Heart, and he has written his story in The Road to Unafraid.  (See the last three paragraphs of this article.)

The Christian Response

Case 1:

In 1996, an Air Force chaplain urged his congregation to participate in the “Project Life Postcard Campaign,” an attempt by the Catholic Church to persuade Congress to overturn President Clinton’s veto of the partial-birth abortion ban.  Military leadership believed that such actions constituted “political lobbying,” so chaplains were prohibited from encouraging their congregations to participate.  With the assistance of the Becket Fund, the chaplain sued and won in District Court in April of 1997. [Becket Fund report]

Case 2:

In 1999, an Air Force lieutenant trained as a missileer asked that he not be placed on alert with an officer of the opposite gender.  (This would require him to be in the cramped quarters of a missile control center for days at a time with only the company of the other officer.)  Because he felt that the potential for temptation would affect his commitment to his wife, he sought relief under Department of Defense regulations requiring religious accommodation.  Several commanders accommodated him; eventually, one revoked the accommodation and gave him an “unprofessional” rating on his OPR.  Fearing the OPR would unjustly hinder his career, the lieutenant appealed to a records correction board to have the OPR amended; they partially edited the “unsubstantiated” statements on the OPR.  Eventually, the lieutenant sued the Air Force with the assistance of the Becket Fund.  A year later (2003), the Air Force settled and removed the OPR and all references to it from his records. [Becket Fund report]

Case 3:

In late 2005 Navy Lieutenant (Chaplain) Gordon James Klingenschmitt, a 1991 USAFA graduate, went on a hunger strike near the White House to protest an effort to have him removed from the military for insisting on praying “in Jesus’ Name.”  He said he would maintain his hunger strike until the President signed an executive order codifying the chaplain’s right to pray in accordance with his beliefs.  After 16 days, the chaplain ended his strike when his commander wrote a letter stating he was permitted to pray in Jesus’ Name while in uniform. [Klingenschmitt personal website]

Case 4:

Today, two Air Force officers–a chaplain and an F-16 fighter pilot–have joined the defense of an ongoing lawsuit that has pitted the Air Force against Michael Weinstein, a 1977 US Air Force Academy graduate who claimed that his son had experienced the fruits of proselytizing evangelical Christian cadets and officers.  According to the Alliance Defense Fund, the two joined the Air Force defense because if Weinstein prevailed, “their ability to share their faith and to candidly discuss religion…would be in jeopardy.”  The fighter pilot stated that he felt he had the “right to discuss my faith without censorship or fear of retribution.” [ADF Report]

In the face of public scrutiny of religion in its ranks, it appears the military is slowly distancing itself from religion.  The initial Air Force religious guidelines told officers they could not use public expressions of faith, advocate a particular belief system, use “well-intentioned” expressions of belief, or have religious content in their emails.  While the first revision of those guidelines softened those stances, the potential that the Air Force could one day become anti-Christian now seems possible.  Christian officers must not only assess their actions in the light of regulations but also consider the court of public opinion.  An otherwise permissible action could still conceivably result in a detrimental news headline, official complaint, or Congressional investigation; even if a Christian was “acquitted” after a complaint, would the cost—to his professional career or personal witness—be worth it?  If even chaplains are investigated for religious offense, what is a Christian fighter pilot to do if he desires to have an active witness for Christ?  Read more