SOUTH KOREA –
David Montes Jr. has answered a panoply of calls from Soldiers throughout his 22-year Army career. Two years ago, Montes decided to answer another, much higher call: to become a Chaplain. His decision to answer this particular call has placed him on a new path as a Chaplain candidate in the U.S. Army Reserve.
The former enlisted Army Combat Engineer, and prior Savannah Police Officer (2016-2019), who resigned from the Savannah Police Department to join the esteemed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Far East District, has worked for the District as an Environmental Services Project Manager since 2019. That very year, Montes would make the life-changing decision to pursue the Army Chaplaincy.
“My decision was a culmination of feelings; for a long time, I had thoughts about pursuing this path,” recalls Montes. “Spiritually, my heart was burdened for it, but my mind kept telling me no.” Having served in the Army for over two decades, as both Active Duty and Reservist, and with a promotion to Sergeant Major in tow, there were complex circumstances to consider in his decision. Following two years of praying and consulting mentors, Montes committed to his heart.
Since then, Montes has commissioned as an Army Chaplain candidate. At the end of April, he graduated at the top of the Commandant’s List, second of 75 students, in Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course (CHBOLC) training, a 13-week course at Fort Jackson, S.C. CHBOLC is the first of three phases that Chaplain candidates must complete to become a Chaplain.
Initially, Montes had a few hesitations about transitioning his faith into an official capacity. He was used to being comfortably approached as a non-commissioned officer, which would give him the opportunity to minister. The thought that by becoming a Chaplain, “people might not want to approach [him] anymore” weighed heavily on his mind. However, after completing training, Montes gained great confidence in his ability to influence decisions that can affect an organization. As a Chaplain, he will be “empowered to proactively solve issues with Soldiers and focus on people,” and that is his mission.
Montes’ genuine care for and motivation of others is part of his innate nature. Despite being in a training situation, Montes “consistently provided purpose, direction, and motivation to his peers throughout the course and Capstone” according to Chaplain (Major) Patricia Nichols, BOLC Academic Rater.
When asked what it feels like now that he’s a third of the way through his journey, Montes said, “I’m encouraged. I still have a way to go. Throughout Chaplain BOLC there were multiple moments reminding me I’m meant to be here.” Those who have worked with or crossed paths with Montes know that he is service-oriented. His past paints the picture of a man who’s chosen a selfless life in the service of others: Soldier, Police Officer, and now, the pursuit of Chaplaincy.
Theologically, Montes has a few checkpoints remaining, specifically the completion of practicums and Master of Divinity, to pass, but while he’s completing his requirements, he’s encouraged and excited to be in a position to “still to have an impact” on those he works with and around. His services aren’t limited to military personnel.
Montes welcomes anyone from anywhere to seek him out if they are in need or just want to talk: “Whether you believe in God or not, your life has value and your value as a human being is not determined by your circumstance, your career, or what others think about you. Do not let Pride or Shame stop you from helping yourself or seeking the help you need. I am here to talk.”
Upon being asked how long he plans to serve, Montes replied, “I will, at least, give the Army an additional 8 years due to service obligation, however, I want to serve until the Lord allows me to.”
Montes pinpointed a verse from the Bible as a message that he’d like to share: Focus on what is good and try to live joyfully in all circumstances, Philippians 4:8.
With an experienced and welcoming asset like Montes as part of the Far East District, we are reminded of the diverse and talented workforce that contributes to the District’s continued recognition as a World Class Organization.
For 22 years, David Montes served in the U.S. Army. He still does, only now, he’s a Chaplain candidate instead of a Combat Engineer, and can affect even more Soldiers, and those he works with in his Civilian career, than he did previously.