U.S. Army Chaplain (Col.) Rick Spencer (left), an auxiliary
Roman Catholic bishop with the Archdiocese for the Military
Services, USA, and Staff Sgt. Jeremy Todd, his chaplain assistant,
stand in front of the Enduring Faith Chapel, here, on Bagram, Dec.
19, 2011. As
Spencer's assistant, Todd provided personal security for the Bishop
during his recent deployment to Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo
courtesy of Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Eric Albertson, Combined Task
Force-1 Chaplain Office
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan— He is a priest, a soldier, an Army
chaplain, and yet he is also a bishop, serving as an Auxiliary for
the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.
Col. Rick Spencer wears many hats besides his zucchetto, the small
head covering marking his clerical position; including the Army's
patrol cap, field “boonie” cap, and combat helmet.
military police officer commissioned in 1973, he answered the call
to the priesthood in 1980 and was ordained for the Diocese of
Baltimore in 1988. Having served initially in the U.S. Army
Reserves, Spencer later joined the active force and served with
distinction in varied assignments, including Bosnia, Egypt, Korea,
Germany, and multiple combat deployments to Iraq.
the call from Rome, he was ordained a bishop in the Basilica of the
National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.,
Sept. 8, 2010. Unique in the history of the Military Archdiocese, as
the only actively serving auxiliary bishop, he retained his status
as an Army chaplain in the Reserves, allowing him to deploy in
support of combat operations and provide needed sacramental and
spiritual support to the troops in the forward operating areas.
His most recent deployment landed him at Bagram Air
Field, the largest military base in Afghanistan, in support
of one of his former combat units, the 1st Cavalry Division
based out of Fort Hood, Texas. In his well-known and
energetic style, Bishop Spencer hit the ground running,
generously providing pastoral care, visiting the wounded,
celebrating Mass, and administering the Sacrament of
Confirmation to Catholic service members stationed at
Bagram. He also traveled north to administer Confirmation to
American Catholics located at Camp Marmal in Regional
Bishop Spencer commented that he
always finds it humbling and rewarding to work and serve in
a joint environment—one that includes the Air Force, Navy,
Marines, in addition to the Army. Although his roots are
with the Army, as a military bishop, his concern is for all
branches of service.
“The privilege to support the
different branches with pastoral care, and seeing them work
together to bring peace, stability and hope to the people
and nation of Afghanistan is very rewarding,” the Bishop
Yet the reward goes both ways. The Bagram
congregations, made up of the different branches, all
commented on how special it was to have the Bishop celebrate
Mass for Advent and the holiday season.
tremendous military success has occurred in the past year,
the fighting in eastern Afghanistan remains intense.
Helicopters routinely brought in the wounded, and multiple
ramp ceremonies and memorial ceremonies were conducted to
honor the fallen. The long hours and continuous combat
operations, the cumulative effects of grief and the
emotional strain associated with caring for the wounded
takes its toll.
Most of these troops have deployed
multiple times. Sometimes it takes a little more grace when
the spiritual need is so great, perhaps only the grace and
presence a bishop can bring, one who possesses the fullness
of the priesthood, one who is soldier, chaplain and
Father Eric Albertson is a priest from the
Arlington Diocese serving in the Archdiocese for the
Military Services, USA. Currently he is the command chaplain
for Regional Command-East, 1st Cavalry Division, Combined
Joint Task Force-1, Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
More photos available below
By Army Lt. Col. Eric Albertson, RC-East PAO
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