Three chaplains serve many roles at Fort Leavenworth
July 1, 2005
A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert
The Rev. David E. McLean is command chaplain at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (UMNS)—Military chaplains carry an image in their
minds: a lonely, frightened soldier who needs to know someone cares.
Three United Methodist pastors serving in three very different
capacities at Fort Leavenworth all carry that image with them—a reminder
of soldiers they have helped in some of life’s most challenging times.
“Everything that I do, I try to remember the soldier out there, scared,
uncomfortable and lonely, and his family back home, afraid and anxious
and hopeful, and try to make sure they are well served,” says the Rev.
Mitchell Lewis. “That is the bottom line of what we do.”
The Rev. David E. McLean is command chaplain at the Combined Arms Center
and Fort Leavenworth. Lewis works on a team designing Army doctrine,
and the Rev. Scott Jones is a recent graduate of the Command and General
Before arriving at Fort Leavenworth, McLean served four years in Germany
at Landstuhl Hospital. Lewis was in Iraq during the first months of
Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Jones was in Afghanistan from August 2003
to May 2004.
Chaplain David McLean
In his 28 years of service as a chaplain in the Army, McLean and his family have moved 24 times.
“What’s funny about that is we spent four years at Landstuhl Hospital in
Germany and four years at Redstone Arsenal,” he says, laughing. That
means he, his wife, and their five daughters spent a lot of time packing
and unpacking. His wife, Angie, and their daughters have taken the
moves and life in the Army in stride.
“As one of my daughters said to us one time, ‘I don’t know how ya’ll do
it or why you did it, and sometimes I hated you for doing it, but it is
good to see that ya’ll stuck together even when you were pulled apart.’”
As command chaplain at Fort Leavenworth, McLean oversees the command
master religious program, supervising chaplains and chaplain assistants
and teaching the chaplains who are students in the command and general
McLean went to Germany in 2000, after completing the national war college in Washington.
“It kind of looked like it would be a rather easy assignment,” he says.
The family saw it as an opportunity to enjoy Europe and give their
youngest daughter a chance to complete high school in one place. McLean
was assigned as chaplain for Landstuhl, the largest American hospital
outside the United States. Most injured military personnel are sent to
They arrived in September. In October, the USS Cole was bombed in a
terrorist attack that killed 17 sailors and injured 39 others. In
November, 155 skiers were killed in a ski cable-car accident in Austria,
including an entire family who had been members of McLean’s chapel
family from another assignment. Then the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
occurred and war was declared.
“We never realized what hospital ministry during a war-time mission would require,” he says.
“During Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, we saw
17,000 sick and wounded come through the hospital.” In addition to
providing religious support and care for the soldiers, the chaplains
supported the hospital staff.
“The trauma that the medical and hospital care staff faces every day,
24/7, really called for the best and the most out of people,” McLean
says. “I talked to many doctors and nurses who had cared for trauma
patients throughout the world, but it is different when you see a young
person injured or maimed because they are fighting for freedom. It does
do something different to you.”
McLean says he knows he has definitely made a difference in lives through his ministry as a chaplain.
“I have been able to offer that assurance of God’s presence with us
always,” he says. “When you ask have I made a difference, absolutely,
because it is not just about me but about what we as chaplains represent
Chaplain Mitchell Lewis
A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert
The Rev. Mitchell Lewis is one of a handful of chaplains helping the Army plan for the future at Fort Leavenworth.
Lewis jokes that he is a “spy for the chief of chaplains” at Fort
Leavenworth, but quickly adds “that is not a very good way of putting
He is among a handful of chaplains helping the Army plan for the future.
As part of a team working on combined arms directives and Army
doctrine, he must make sure the Army is keeping religious matters and
the role of chaplains always in its plans.
“I am here to make sure not just that my branch is represented in the
future Army, but that the spiritual needs of soldiers and the basic
moral principles that our nation is built on are represented in what the
Some of the biggest decisions about the future Army are made at Fort
Leavenworth, he says. “We are transforming the Army even as we are
engaged in the global war on terrorism.”
Lewis is focusing on such questions as: Where do chaplains fit in the
Army? What should their primary tasks be? What equipment will they need
to do their jobs? What kind of career progression will they have?
“Those are the kinds of questions we are trying to answer. You have to
move in that direction; you can’t wait until everything has been decided
and catch up. If you sit passively by, you will never have the right
person in the right place.”
Before going to Fort Leavenworth, Lewis was at Fort Stewart, Ga., and
was deployed to Iraq during the first stages of the war. He admits this
job is very different.
“I think the work I am doing here is an important piece—it is an
enabling ministry,” he says. “Pieces of it are very rewarding, (and)
quite frankly, some pieces of it are very tedious. But I made the
bargain with God, the church and the Army that I would do what they
assigned me to do, and this is my job.”
The fact that he has firsthand experience being with soldiers during war helps, he says.
Chaplain Scott Jones
A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert
The Rev. Scott Jones graduated from the Army's Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in June.
Jones, who served as a brigade chaplain in Afghanistan, graduated from the Army’s Command and General Staff College in June.
While in Afghanistan, 17 soldiers were killed in his brigade. He
particularly remembers a couple of incidents when soldiers were injured.
Someone threw a grenade into a soldier’s vehicle. “He had a split second
to decide what to do. He couldn’t throw it out because there were kids
crowded around the vehicle. What he did was put it down as far as he
could under the seat. He lost a couple of fingers and the guy next to
him really tore up his leg. Both lived and will be OK.”
Another time, someone left explosives on a bicycle and parked it outside a school.
“That injured a lot of kids. Some were killed. We took care of them at our medical center.”
Some of his other jobs included conducting memorial services for those
killed and helping mental health teams perform critical event
debriefings for soldiers who had witnessed friends being killed.
Being a student at Fort Leavenworth has helped him understand how the Army works, he says.
“When I first came into the Army, it was a culture shock. I felt like
missionaries must feel, like I had been dropped into the middle of
Africa and didn’t know anything about the customs or culture.”
In addition to learning how the Army works, he has had the opportunity
to attend classes on subjects such as world religion, Middle Eastern
studies, “just war” and ethics, and a chaplain-specific class on how to
operate as a chaplain in the system.
“The Army and military is a very complex system, and you have to
understand the system to get things done. All in all, it has been a good
experience,” he says.
“I am a pastor in a uniform. That’s the only reason I am here, to be a minister in the Army.”
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
The Rev. David E. McLean: “…working together to meet the needs.”
The Rev. Scott Jones: “…represent God and the United Methodist Church.”
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