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NEWS | June 25, 2020

It's really about a calling: Chaplain Colin Durham

By Capt. David Gasperson 335th Signal Command (Theater)

In 2009, Colin Durham's wife looked over at him and said, "I think you should go into the Army as a chaplain. The Army needs chaplains because you know, we're at war." He looked back at her and said, "Look, I'm way too old."

The 44-year old was living in South Carolina with his two children and running a successful residential development company that he built from a construction business nearly 20 years before.

Durham was no stranger to the military or ministry. He served as an enlisted Sailor in the U.S. Navy from 1982 to 1987 and graduated from college with a seminary degree.

Although hesitant, to appease his wife Durham complied and called the recruiter. Within 10 minutes of talking with him, he arrived at his nearest Military Entrance Processing Station — fit for military duty.

Shortly after his 45th birthday, Durham reported to Chaplain Initial Military Training, the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps' equivalent of basic training and part of the Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

During the eight weeks of initial entry training, the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School's mission is to transform civilian religious leaders into influential and adaptive military leaders capable of meeting the Army's spiritual support needs.

Durham found himself waking up early, working out hard, and completing obstacle courses and field problems with the Army's next generation of spiritual leaders.

He says on his first day of the course, the students all soon realized they were "not in Kansas anymore."

During a scheduled block of training, he and his classmates reported to class in business casual clothes as ordered. One of his classmates showed up at a class at the start time versus the Army's unwritten "15 minutes early" arrival rule.

"Well at 1400, this lieutenant colonel catches a female walking through the door and starts 'BAH, BAH, BAH, BAH, BAH! DROP DOWN AND GIVE ME 20!'” Durham exclaimed.

"We're all sitting there going 'What's going on?!' You know, we all turn, and she's in a dress doing push-ups! And we're like, 'What's just happened here?'"

Durham says the event was an introduction to Army culture, but by the time the course ended, he enjoyed his time.

"At the end of it, I would've stayed another three months," he said. “It was a great camaraderie of people, and we had a good time."

Despite the esprit de corps, he felt during training, Durham still had reservations about leaving behind a successful business and joining the Army as a chaplain.

"In the chaplaincy, we have this concept that it's really about a calling,” he said. "The good chaplains are not the ones that are there because it's a good income. They're the ones that really feel that that's where they are supposed to be. I'll be honest. I didn't have that at first."

Six months in and deployed, Durham found that calling through ministry and serving Soldiers across the middle east as the battalion chaplain for the Army Reserve's 1186th Deployment and Distribution Support Battalion.

Durham traveled across Afghanistan, visiting the battalion's Soldiers spread all over the country and the Middle East supporting the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command.

That deployment was memorable, with both highs and lows. Durham lost a good friend, Capt. Bruce Macfarlane, who passed away suddenly in Kandahar, Afghanistan, early in the deployment.

He also made lifelong friendships with many of the battalions' former leadership.

"It wasn't just a typical deployment where you go do a job, and you come back, and you lose track of everybody," Durham said. "We kept up with people, and it's just been cool. Col. Daniel Ellis was not only a commander but became a really good friend."

Durham also officiated at the wedding of one of the company commanders after returning home from the deployment.

"Capt. Joe Dietz became a very close friend, and I was honored to perform his wedding when we got back," Durham said. So every year, we get a card, and we see his kids growing up."

Durham said before he joined, he had misconceptions about the Army. But 11 years in, and they've disappeared.

"I had this misconception that the Army was a bunch of country hicks," he laughed. "They were strong, and they could shoot, but they weren't real smart. They crawled through the mud. That was my conception. The Navy, they were the engineers. They were your smart people, and that was part of my reluctance to the Army. That went away quickly. I realized the Army is filled with some of the smartest people out there."

He says nowadays, he can't think of having another job. Before arriving at this current assignment, Durham served with U.S. Army Central, where he traveled across the Middle East, setting up theater security cooperation meetings.

He currently serves as the deputy command chaplain for the 335th Signal Command (Theater) outside of Atlanta.

"I can't imagine doing anything better. I've had a lot of experience in life. Military, then getting out, being able to have my own company. I've worked for people. I've traveled all over the world. And I think about the end of my career life, in a sense, job-wise. I couldn't have planned it better. I really do love doing what the Army allows me to do."