Va. Guard welcomes new state chaplain

FORT PICKETT, Va. – After three decades of service, Virginia Army National Guard Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James D. Moore, an Amelia, Va., resident, has been selected to serve as the top military chaplain for the Virginia National Guard.

An Iraq veteran, and an advocate for troops and their families, Moore takes the reins from Chaplain (Col.) Todd W. Combee, who retired earlier this year.

A native of Dundalk, Md., Moore started his military career on rocky terms. Having been a troubled teenager, Moore soon found himself in front of a adjudicator who gave him the option of military service.

Moore enlisted as an Airman in the U.S. Air Force military police, now referred to as security forces, Aug. 4, 1976. He spent 12 years serving in the USAF, eight years spent as an MP and four years serving as a recruiter, where he led his peers by having the highest recruiting rate.

During his time with the USAF, leaders molded and guided him, Moore explained.

“They worked really hard with me and a popular military program to help me get my diploma from a high school in Portland, Ore.,” Moore said. “I’ve never even been to Oregon, but they knew that this is what I needed to progress as an Airman and as a person.”

When he was 20 years old, Moore described a very spiritual awakening. “I came to know Jesus Christ as my lord and savior and pretty much from then on, almost immediately, I knew I needed to serve other people and to help people get through the journey of life as painlessly as possible,” Moore said.

Following his USAF career, Moore took advantage of his Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits and new-found purpose in life and attended Criswell College in Dallas, Texas, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in biblical studies in 1991. He then moved his family to Wake Forest, N.C., where he attended Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and in 1996 earned his masters of divinity with focus in counseling ministry.

It was while attending SBTS that he encountered a chaplain candidate who convinced him of a better way to pay for his education.

“The last thing I wanted to do was go back into the military,” said Moore. “I saw restrictions in religious freedom; as an enlisted person, I couldn’t read my Bible on duty. Then I realized that I could go back into the military and do exactly that.”

Moore answered the call to Army chaplaincy by contacting the specialty branch recruiters and began the process of accessing into the Virginia National Guard.

“It’s almost a fireman being called to a fire, I’ll help you put your fire out,” Moore explained. “Being able to support and to encourage people is very rewarding for me.”

He joined the Virginia Army National Guard in 1996, and served as the battalion chaplain for the Danville-based 246th Field Artillery Battalion, the Fredericksburg-based 229th Engineer Battalion, the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment and Fort Pickett Maneuver Training Center.

It was at this time that Moore volunteered to deploy with the Fort Riley-based 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division to Iraq where he served as the officer in charge for 36 “hero missions,” which are operations involving the transportation of the remains of fallen Soldiers. (Courtesy photo)

It was at this time that Moore volunteered to deploy with the Fort Riley-based 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division to Iraq where he served as the officer in charge for 36 “hero missions,” which are operations involving the transportation of the remains of fallen Soldiers. (Courtesy photo)

“I was pasturing a church down in Williamsburg before I left, and when I came back from Iraq, it was so life changing, I just couldn’t get back into that environment,” explained Moore. Making the transition back can be difficult for chaplains who return to a strikingly different form of ministry

After returning from Iraq in the summer of 2005, Moore was selected as the chaplain to the Fort Pickett and Virginia Beach-based 329th Regional Support Group.

In winter of 2006, Moore became chaplain of the Virginia Army National Guard– holding that position as a full-time National Guard officer. The global war on terror and the Soldiers’ needs created a need for a full-time chaplain, Moore explained.

“One of the first objectives of this position is to work with faith-based and other non-governmental groups to generate awareness and support within the different Virginia communities to reach out and support the Soldiers in their communities,” Moore explained.

Moore plans to continue expanding the network of faith-based community support outreach opportunities throughout Virginia—focusing on areas identified as evacuation shelters towards southwest Virginia. He also discussed broadening the relationship between the Virginia National Guard and the Virginia Defense Force with local faith-based groups in preparation for emergency situations.

Moore is supported by Colleen, his wife of 38 years, and two children, Matthew, a U.S. Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and his daughter, Jessica, a registered nurse with the intensive care unit at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Va.

“I want to be the Soldiers’ and Airmen’s advocate for religious freedom, in America you have that right,” Moore said. “You have the right to be Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, or nothing at all—leaders shouldn’t push their religious views and opinions onto their subordinates– my job is to protect everyone’s religious freedoms and care for others.”

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