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Why I Serve: General Says Teamwork Makes Military Appealing

By Tam Cummings
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT HOOD, Texas, Feb. 4, 2005 – "Some people are not comfortable in life if they are not part of something bigger -- if they are not part of a team. Being in the military is like that. I think it is a place where people come to seek order and to be a part of something special, an extension of that team," Army Brig. Gen. Jim Chambers said.

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Army Brig. Gen. Jim Chambers, commander of the 13th Corps Support Command at Fort Hood, Texas, said the military is a place where people come to seek order and to be part of something special. Army photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Chambers had graduated from college in Southeastern Oklahoma State University and was in his third year as a teacher and coach in Marietta, Okla., when one of his father's friends suggested during a golf game he look into a career with the military. Chambers' wife, Elaine, was teaching school and he was coaching football, basketball and track and field, "but still, there was no money at the end of the month," the general said.

"My dad's friend asked if I was interested in a commission. I'd always been drawn to (the military) and I missed being in an orderly atmosphere," Chambers, the son of a retired Air Force technical sergeant, explained.

So Chambers, now commanding general of the 13th Corps Support Command, went to basic training and then to Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1979. He has remained in the Army for more than 27 years.

"It's been a continuous adventure," Chambers said. "We like the changes. We like traveling. I think almost everybody in the military thrives on building teams and starting over in new locations."

Chambers said he's enjoyed the professional development his career has provided. "After completing company command, I thought, 'It doesn't get any better than this,'" he said. "But there is always a new challenge. Every time I became restive and thought it was time to plant roots, the Army provided a new opportunity to have another challenge and stay in. I've enjoyed everything I've ever done, regardless of what it was."

Today's Army offers a career to soldiers coming from average American homes, Chambers said.

"I've seen a shift," he explained. "We're an Army made up mainly of soldiers raised in middle- and low-income households, definitely not an Army made up of kids from the affluent households. "I see an Army of soldiers who want to better themselves. I see the eagerness in their eyes and their desire and motivation when they are promoted. The Army is a place you can come to and improve yourself. There are 100 doors to go through to make that improvement.

"I started out as a private from Oklahoma," he continued, "and I know that soldiers believe you can start at the bottom and work yourself to the top."

Chambers said people interested in a career in the military should follow a few basic rules for success.

"You don't have to be Ivy League," he said. "You just have to have desire, be goal-oriented, love what you do and take every job and mission as an adventure. Leave every place better than you found it."

Chambers was a high school teammate of Maj. Gen. J.D. Thurmond, 4th Infantry Division commander, and said they both came from the same small town and went to a small state school for college. "We both also have very supportive wives and families," he said. "Elaine and I have been together for 30 years, and I can't imagine doing this without her."

The general said his advice boils down simply: "Bottom line: You can't be embarrassed about being a servant for the country. Work hard, lean on your faith, maintain your values and at the end of the day, things will be OK."

(Tam Cummings is news editor for the Fort Hood Sentinel.)

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