Forever Changed #18: the journey home

Military IraqThis is my last writing to you as I will be replaced this week and begin to transition home. I have been trying to figure out what to write on this last report. So here goes…

As I reflect on the nature of our Air Force, I use my own career thus far as a measuring stick. When I reached my first duty assignment at Hurlburt Field (Fla.), it was a special one. We were spec ops (special operations) and not part of any expeditionary force rotation. That meant we were too busy being deployed all the time to really be able to fit into an AEF. And sure enough in my first 18 months at Hurlburt, I was gone 10. I was then placed on a nondeployable status (when I went through my separation with my wife and final divorce) that meant for the next year I would stay home. I moved to Langley last August and have spent around six months away on one TDY or another.

They say faith is best lived in the past, and when I look into my ministry past I see lots of mobile ministry and not a whole lot of time to do great big things at one location. I entered active duty on 14 February 2002 (42 months of service to-date) and have spent 14 months deployed and another three months on TDY assignments (training for war). So thanks to my one year on a profile as non-deployable, only 40 percent of my career, thus far, has been spent directly supporting the war on terror either through deployments or training for deployment ministry. What I see from this is the nature of our military in a post 9-11 environment. When I first joined the military, we were in the middle of Desert Shield. After Desert Storm people began to talk about the possibility of being deployed at least once in their career. I was briefed to prepare myself and family for at least that possibility. How our world has changed. And with the change in our military needs, the men and women of America have continually said I can provide combat airpower for America. And here I am for the past four months surrounded by those who have been doing just that. How proud we can all be of these who have come and all of those who will soon come in their due time.

As I await my replacement to arrive this week I can say I am proud to be here doing what we are doing. I am proud to have served in this position. As tired as I am, I am sad that I have to leave. I preached my last sermon yesterday and some asked me afterwards why I wasn’t smiling as much. I told them because that was my last sermon at Balad. In reflection what I am most proud of is what my units accomplished during this AEF cycle, check this out:

Our Guntruckers:

Convoy Missions: 966

Vehicles Escorted: 12,577
Off-base Miles:  610,525

Add on Armor:
Vehicles Up Armored: 177

Civil Engineers:
Designed 61+ projects ~ $25M
Over 78 Fire Responses
Completed 13 “outside the wire” crash rescue missions
Completed 124+ convoys
EOD destroyed over 124 VBIEDs & IEDs and 55K pieces of Ordnance
Helped administer $347M worth of Iraqi reconstruction projects
Supervised on-site excavation and site preparation for $38M utility crossing of the Tigris River, repairing war-damaged pipeline serving Northern Oil Fields

The Hospital:
9000+ patients seen: 1,500 Joint/Coalition admissions, almost 1,900 patients air evacuated with 250 requiring critical care transport
56% increased surgeries, 14% increased admissions compared to AEF 3 / 4  with same staffing
#1 in AF trauma surgery: 2,284 blood products transfused from 1 May 2005 to 29 July 2005 compared to 1,274 by largest AF hospital
Groundbreaking … Multiple new technologies first time used in theater implemented, patients survived transport, lives saved
Busiest in AOR; 146 missions, carrying 2,371 patients, conducted by CASF
Expanded facility from 50 to 100 beds during patient surge

That is mission success! Our Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Gorenc gave us his five basics to being successful here. He said we must focus on the mission, provide leadership not management, do it safely, maintain discipline, and maintain loyalty. Yesterday I gave a ride to three airmen who were walking the 1.5 miles it takes to walk to DFAC 1 because there was a fire at DFAC 2. I asked them how long they have been in the Air Force and the airman in the back seat said nine months. His rank is an E-2. By the way there is another airman I met who is eight months in the Air Force. We all laughed because usually you are not allowed to deploy until you finish your upgrade training. These guys haven’t even started. This kid was in high school just one year ago. And now his education continues in Iraq. He is being asked to protect convoys delivering needed supplies to FOBs while many of his friends have gone on to college and who are at home working and still planning on graduating high school. How many of his friends are being asked to focus on the five basics? How many of them meet small children throwing rocks at him in the dark nights, the enemy shooting bullets, RPGs, and setting off IEDs at his vehicle while he decides when is the right time to shoot and properly use his escalation of force appropriately? In the next six months he will grow up very quickly…

Well, I am not sure that this is a very good last report. I just don’t feel like I can really do justice to all the work these airmen have done. I hope you have gotten a picture of what a chaplain goes through in a combat zone, and maybe a picture of what a combat wing looks like day to day.

And now the best news every deployed person looks for has arrived for me this afternoon. I just received my tickets from the airline. I’d love to see anyone who would like to come out and say hi, if not I will see you shortly thereafter. Until then, this is Gladiator, Shepherd 6, signing off…

ABPnews will publish one entry a week from the journal then-Capt. Charles Seligman kept while deployed to Iraq as an Air Force chaplain in 2005. Now a major, Seligman currently serves as the deputy wing chaplain for the 59th Medical Wing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He is endorsed by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

You can read more of his story published September 11, 2013. You can also read older journal entries from Maj. Seligman. Watch a video documentary of the ER where Maj. Seligman served – he’s even in the video for a few seconds!

Chuck Seligman

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  • Lynn Rogers

    As an Army wife, I was blessed by a number of chaplains at various bases overseas and in the states. Their ministry is indispensable. My husband’s service during the Korean War occurred before our marriage, but I lived through his two deployments to Vietnam. He only shares the humorous incidents that he experienced. Thank you Chaplain Seligman for allowing your experience to be shared.

    • Chuck Seligman

      Thanks Lynn. And thank your husband for serving in a time when it was much harder than it is today. It’s been an honor to tell the stories of those whom I served with

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