Face of Defense: Chaplain Shines as Beacon of Faith
By Army Sgt. Luther L. Boothe Jr.
Task Force Currahee
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Jan. 28, 2011 His daily ritual consists of stopping by and checking in. “Hello, how is everybody?” “Hope all is well!” “God bless you,” he says, his words reflecting kindness, appreciation and his southern accent.
Army Chaplain (Maj.) Randal H. Robison lights the Advent candles during a Catholic Mass at the Frontline Chapel at Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan, Dec. 24, 2010. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Luther L. Boothe Jr.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
His energy and ear-to-ear smile can brighten even the darkest situations, the soldiers here say, describing him as sincere and caring, loving to all and judgmental to none.
Army Chaplain (Maj.) Randal H. Robison has committed his life to answering his calling and is happy being a source of optimism and positivity for soldiers during deployment.
“I look at the position I hold as the brigade chaplain as a calling,” said Robison, brigade chaplain for the 101st Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team in Task Force Currahee. “I believe I am here, appointed by the Lord, to be present to provide pastoral care ministry and to be present for the services of our soldiers and for our chaplains.”
His responsibilities include oversight of six religious support teams that cover all of Paktika province and beyond, working with his Afghan counterpart and fulfilling his staff officer duties. But it is going above and beyond those roles with a sense of humility that separates him from others.
“I enjoy what I do. I treasure the role of the chaplaincy very much,” the Grand Prairie, Texas, native said. “I wholeheartedly embrace it. Bringing God to soldiers and soldiers to God is very much at the basic core of my identity. I want to do to everything I can to encourage soldiers, to let them know that even in their difficult moments with the challenges they face, God is with them.”
His Christian beliefs are at the core of who he is, yet for many soldiers, his ability to care and make time for others is what sets him apart.
“My favorite thing about Chaplain Robison is even when he is extremely busy, if you need to talk, he will stop what he is doing and listen to you,” said Army Pfc. Genevieve A. Harms, paralegal specialist with the brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company. “He remembers your problems, and the next time he sees you, he makes sure everything has worked out. He actually cares about soldiers and their families.”
Caring about soldiers is just something he does not because he has to, but because he wants to, the chaplain said.
“I want all soldiers to know that I do care and I, at the end of the day, am a soldier just like the most-junior private we have,” he added. “If I see them, I want to engage them and encourage them, knowing they have a story.
“I want to know how they are doing and how their families are doing,” he continued, “because I truly feel, deeply, that our soldiers are America’s finest. They are willing to serve and to be away from their families and face the hardships and challenges. Therefore, they deserve our best. Every soldier deserves the best from the soldier next to them, so that we can be able to get our mission accomplished. I want soldiers to know that they are cared for, to nourish them for who they are.”
Chaplains at the battalion level have an opportunity to interact more with troops, he said, noting that the role is different at the brigade level. “But it is still embracing the spirit and kissing the soul of the soldiers and letting them know that you do care and that God cares for them, too,” he added.
Robison has a knack for making soldiers feel as if they are talking to an old friend.
“When I talk to him, he makes me feel like I am talking to someone I have known my whole life,” said Harms, a Tacoma, Wash., native. “He knows where I am coming from, and he does not judge me based on the decisions I have made.
“When I see him walking toward me,” she added, “I get the feeling that everything is going to be OK. Even if I only come across him for just one second, it makes my day better.”
Ultimately, Robison said, it’s about duty, country and honoring God through his service.
“I want to know I made a difference, that my service was not just signing up and going through the motions, but that I made a difference in the lives of those who I have been able to meet because they have made a difference in mine,” he said. “With every soldier, I think if I can know them, that maybe somehow I could make a difference in their life.”
Robison said he tries to start every day on his knees in prayer.
“Part of my prayer is to place my life and the lives of my soldiers in Christ’s hands and for his guidance, wisdom and understanding, and I try to rest in that -- to know that God’s keeping hand is upon us for all Currahees,” he said.
The chaplain said his personal faith drives what he does. “It defines who I am as a Christian pastor,” he said, “and in my role as a Christian chaplain, it just compels me to it. I try to do it with a sense of joy.”