News: The young calling
Story by: Sgt. Kandi Huggins
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE WARRIOR, Iraq - “Before I joined the Army, I was a local church minister,” said Chaplain [Capt.] Young Jin Jung, 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery, 1st Advise and Assist Task Force, 1st Infantry Division. “During which time I met with soldiers, held several counselings, and made up my mind to become a chaplain—but I didn’t have a green card.”
“As an immigrant there was a limitation to my ministry in the Los Angeles area,” continued the South Korea native. “But a door was opened through the [Military Accessions to Vital National Interest] program; I was blessed to find the right place for my ministry.”
The MAVNI is a program that enlists foreign nationals, in times of a war, as linguists or medics.
Initially, Jung joined the Army in April 2009 as a medic. He said three weeks into his basic training he obtained his citizenship.
After basic training, Jung went to Fort Lewis, Wash., for his Advanced Individual Training, and met with a career counselor who presented him with an opportunity to become a chaplain.
Nearly a year and a half after his initial entry into the Army, in Sept. 2010, Jung arrived to his first duty station to serve as the chaplain for 1st Bn., 5th FA.
Prior to joining the U.S. Army, Jung served in the Republic of Korea army from 1994-1996 as an 81-mm mortar soldier.
“In the [South] Korean army, it was mandatory for males between the ages of 19-25 to serve two years and two months,” said Jung. “It was a hard time and a different type of [service], in comparison to the U.S. Army, but I learned a lot of patience and endurance.”
After recalling some of the hardship he endured during his time as a R.O.K. soldier, Jung said he initially struggled with the idea of life in the U.S. Army but, through encouragement from his wife, he applied to join.
“I feel everything I went through was God’s way of preparing me,” said Jung. “Most chaplains don’t go through basic training and the same experiences of a soldier, but I did, and I feel that allows me to know soldiers and relate to them better.”
“Working with him has been a great learning experience,” said Pfc. William Norris, chaplain’s assistant for Jung, from Forrestone, Ill.
Norris, a chaplain’s assistant for two years, said although he has only worked under Jung for eight months, it is easy working with him because they share similar ideologies when it comes to assisting and helping soldiers.
Jung said being able to personally relate to soldiers encourages him to do as much as he can for them, and makes the Soldiers feel more comfortable about talking to him.
Jung said that the transition from serving as a combat soldier to being a chaplain was not always easy.
“During those transition times, I talked to God and told him I wanted to join the Army and have a job that helped with healing and comforting others, but I didn’t want to have to use a gun,” said Jung.
Now, in support of Operation New Dawn, Jung uses his ministry to help soldiers as well as local Iraqis.
“I’ve known Jung for nearly eight months and he’s been a great assistance in helping [us] accomplish different things we have done, such as support or drives, to help support Iraqi civilians,” said Capt. Michael Findlay, battalion safety officer, 1st Bn., 5th FA.
Findlay, a Hudson, Wis., native, recalled an incident that took place during a mission he went on with Jung he felt showed Jung’s sincerity in helping anyone he can.
“While we were out in sector, we were informed about a woman who was diagnosed with a brain tumor,” said Findlay. “Jung requested to see her and he went and prayed for her.”
“He encouraged her by telling her that despite the bad things happening in her life, God is good and he was still with her,” Findlay continued.
Jung said he sees the people of Iraq as friends, a people trying to survive and live their lives.
“A lot of the younger children were born during war time and that built their more aggressive characteristics to survive,” said Jung.
“But I see the possibility to be friends with them and to help provide them with the things they need and the things that will bring a little joy to their lives.”
Findlay also said Jung constantly helps soldiers by actively seeking out those with potential problems and counseling them.
Though Findlay has known Jung for such a short period of time, he said he sees Jung’s story and aspiration as a personal encouragement for himself.
“When you meet someone with such fire to achieve their goals, it makes you reassess yours and want to put effort into achieving those you have for yourself,” said Findlay. “It’s easy to say you have a goal, but a different thing to say you’ve accomplished it.”
Although 1st Bn., 5th FA, is Jung’s first assignment, he said he is confident he is where he is meant to be.
“Through my various Army training and chaplain school, my counseling skills and understanding continues to expand, allowing me to become more professional and efficient in carrying out my mission,” said Jung. “I enjoy the time I’ve spent with soldiers and the memories I’ve shared with them. I’m confident in my heart I’m in the right place to help soldiers better themselves and their families.”