From Infantry Officer To Chaplain
by U.S. Army Matthew Wheaton, Joint Munitions Command
February 9, 2024
Capt. Simon Jackson wants to build relationships with people and earn their trust.
Doing those things is vital in the role he holds with the Army.
Jackson is a Chaplain, and his latest assignment is with the Joint Munitions Command, headquartered at the Rock Island Arsenal.
Capt. Simon Jackson began his Army career as an infantry officer. However, God came calling along the way ... He served as a platoon leader, executive officer, assistant S-3, company commander, and battalion S-3 before commissioning as a Chaplain. He is currently a chaplain at Joint Munitions Command, headquartered at the Rock Island Arsenal. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photo by Shawn Eldridge, Joint Munitions Command taken on January 29, 2024.)
“You have to be called to do this, because this job is hard. It’s not just preaching on Sundays,” Jackson said of being a Chaplain. “There are some highlights, but it’s also just being with people navigating the highs and lows of life. You are there for births, weddings, baptisms, but you’re also there for the deaths, the times they’re in the hospital, and those sorts of things.
“It’s a calling, and if it weren’t for that calling, I would have left this job a long time ago, because it can be difficult,” added Jackson. “It means time away from your family. In the past five years, I’ve spent over a year and a half away from my family.”
Jackson began his Army career as an infantry officer. However, God came calling along the way.
“I was playing the drums at church one Sunday my senior year of college, and God said, ‘go to seminary,’” Jackson said. “It wasn’t audibly, but it was plain as day. I felt an overwhelming sense that I was supposed to go to seminary.”
Jackson contemplated his next move. Once he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in interpersonal and organizational communication from Morehead State University in Kentucky in 2009, Jackson switched his active-duty ROTC scholarship to the Indiana Army National Guard.
The move provided Jackson, a Shelbyville, Indiana, native, the opportunity to continue his education and to do so, he transitioned to the Texas National Guard. In 2013, Jackson received his Master of Divinity with an emphasis in Biblical counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
Jackson served as a platoon leader, executive officer, assistant S-3, company commander, and battalion S-3 before commissioning as a Chaplain in the Texas National Guard in 2014. Jackson is endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention and entered active duty as a Chaplain at Fort Bliss, Texas in July 2016.
“The path to the chaplaincy is a difficult one,” Jackson said. “You must possess a bachelor’s degree, a Master of Divinity, and you must pastor at a church for a minimum of two years before you can be an active-duty Chaplain.
“It’s at least nine years of educational and professional requirements before you’re eligible to be a Chaplain,” added Jackson, who served as a pastor at a church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. While doing so, he flew to Texas to fulfill his National Guard duties. “When you’re a Civilian pastor, you see people for years ... from the cradle to the grave. In the military, you have moments to make an impact in their life.”
Jackson states that he’s like anyone else who seeks religious guidance.
“All of the stresses of life I experience, too,” Jackson said. “One of the things that is often a barrier to trust is people see the Chaplain as this perfect individual and that’s not the case. Everybody has problems. I am navigating this life just like everybody else. I’m just a regular person.”
And what one tells Jackson remains with him.
“People don’t have to navigate their problems alone. I’m here to help. I care,” Jackson said. “I’m not a mandatory reporter, and I don’t tell the command the things that are talked about in counseling.”
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