GULF OF ADEN (NNS) -- The Military Chaplain Association announced the recipient of its 2013 Distinguished Service Award March 22.
Lt. Karen Rector is this year's selection for the award that honors the men and women of the military who have excelled in their core competencies, resiliency during challenges and their ministry that effectively addresses the spiritual and moral wounds of war.
"In a lifetime of service at sea, Chaplain Karen Rector is clearly the best chaplain that I have sailed with," said Capt. Daniel B. Uhls, USS Hue City commanding officer. "Chaplain of the year is a prestigious award that is in place to recognize the service's finest, and I don't believe anyone would have to look any further than Karen."
The award will be announced in a ceremony April 10 during the Military Chaplain Association's annual banquet at the Eisenhower Hotel in Gettysburg, Pa. Rector will be in the midst of a deployment aboard Hue City and will not be able to attend. Upon her return, currently scheduled for early July, her command in Mayport plans to host an award ceremony for her.
"I truly appreciate it considering we don't always see the fruits of our labor," said Rector. "But my focus is on my job and the Sailors aboard the ship."
Rector said she has always felt a close connection with God, but she has not always served as a chaplain. She originally joined the Navy as an airframe structural mechanic.
"I had actually joined the Navy because God wouldn't leave me alone," said Rector. "I felt as if he was calling on me, but I wasn't sure if I understood what he wanted me to do. So I ran even though that didn't seem to change anything."
Rector said she tried multiple paths in life but had never found fulfillment in her choices. Growing up in Oakland, Ky., she played basketball, softball and ran track in high school. After graduating from Western Kentucky University, she enlisted in the Navy and attended boot camp in Great Lakes, Ill.
It was during her first duty assignment aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) when she realized she could run no more, and her true calling was as a Navy chaplain.
"I saw Chaplain Paul, who I had run into periodically, and this night he had come out on the flight deck wearing his flight suit," she said. "This made me a bit curious. So I started asking him a bunch of questions, and he replied by telling me to come down to his office to talk about it."
Rector met Chaplain Paul and the Marine Wing chaplain aboard at the time. They talked with her not only about their jobs but also about what God's plan was for her. After a few hours, Rector decided to pray and see what happened. God's answer was that he was calling her to ministry.
"God put people in my path to ensure I would go down this road," she said.
After receiving her commission and going through her ministry training, Rector received orders to the Marine Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif. Then she served at Combat Logistics Battalion 3 (CLB 3) at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay.
From there she deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) with the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Afghanistan from October 2008 to May 2009, and again in support of OEF from October 2010 to June 2011. Upon completion of her tour with CLB-3, Rector reported to her current assignment, CNSL Ministry Center in Mayport, Fla. She is serving temporarily with the Hue City for its deployment.
Aboard Hue City, Rector stays involved in the everyday lives of the crew by organizing and leading tours and community relations projects, and planning and participating in steel beach picnics. She has implemented and executed more than 40 briefs covering topics such as suicide awareness, sexual assault, personal finance and return and reunion support.
"(Rector) has been fully engaged in every aspect of our operations, spearheading our efforts to reduce operational stress," said Uhls. "She is a top-notch naval officer and chaplain. Her passion for serving the needs of Sailors is clear and undeniable."
By Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matthew R. Cole
Navy News Service
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