From the Frontlines: Chaplain (Capt.) Curt Cizek

Chaplain (Capt.) Curt Cizek hands out water and a stuffed animal to a local Iraqi boy while deployed to Camp Bucca.  Chaplain Cizek attended to the spiritual needs of the base personnel ranging from all five services, civilian contractors, and third country nationals.

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Chaplain (Capt.) Curt Cizek hands out water and a stuffed animal to a local Iraqi boy while deployed to Camp Bucca. Chaplain Cizek attended to the spiritual needs of the base personnel ranging from all five services, civilian contractors and third-country nationals.

Chaplain (Capt.) Curt Cizek pumps up one of his "Bucca Boxing" trainees at Camp Bucca, Iraq.  Chaplain Cizek was involved in coaching, refereeing, and judging the boxing events.

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Chaplain (Capt.) Curt Cizek pumps up one of his "Bucca Boxing" trainees at Camp Bucca, Iraq. Chaplain Cizek was involved in coaching, refereeing and judging the boxing events.

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- As the security forces Airmen prepare to go outside the wire, readying their armor and automatic rifles, Chaplain (Capt.) Curt Cizek began putting on his spiritual armor and readying his metaphorical weapon: his faith.

Chaplain Cizek recently returned from Camp Bucca, Iraq, where he spent six months tending to the spiritual and emotional needs of the base personnel, which included all five services, along with contractors and third-country nationals.

"As a chaplain, I help people here in the states, but while deployed, I saw the raw needs of human beings who were realizing what is truly important to them," said Chaplain Cizek. "This tour showed me how important God becomes to people while deployed."

Working primarily with security forces personnel from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., Chaplain Cizek saw firsthand the impact that a stressful military life can have on personal relationships.

"My best advice to those who are about to deploy is this: Spend as much time as possible with family and loved ones before you leave," he said. "If you have a relationship with God, make sure to strengthen it, and if you don't have a relationship with God, be open to attaining one. It really helps to have something to believe in when you're under that kind of stress."

On a lighter note, Chaplain Cizek had many opportunities to create an atmosphere of fun in Iraq. One such instance was called "Bucca Boxing."

"We had a regulation-sized boxing ring over there, and being a joint operation, there was a healthy competition between the services," he said.
Chaplain Cizek, who did a little boxing at West Point, trained several airmen and soldiers to box at the event.

"I had five guys and one girl that I trained, and the three that listened and did what I told them to do won," he said.

Chaplain Cizek also led a Sunday evening worship service for a group of Ugandans who were contracted to do perimeter security. Their "liturgical" service was not what the chaplain expected.

"We started at 2200, and these guys could sing and dance like crazy," he said. "It was really high-energy, and when it ended at around 2400, it would take me a couple of hours to wind down and go to sleep."

The chaplain was amazed at how, as many different cultures have different customs and lifestyles, people all over share a common piece of humanity.

"It was great to see how the mission had changed from one of battle and destruction, to a mission of peace and rebuilding," he said. "This assortment of different units and different nationalities all come together to make it one fight."

Henry David Thoreau said, "could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?" Chaplain Cizek caught such a glimpse while deployed.

"I had a couple of opportunities to go outside the wire with the Security Forces personnel, as they patrolled convoy routes and oversaw Iraqi-run checkpoints," Captain Cizek said. "An Iraqi man invited us in for Chai Tea. This man was trying to scratch out a living as a farmer, which isn't easy to do in Iraq. We chatted for a while and he invited us to stay for lunch."

This was during Ramadan, where Muslims don't eat during daylight hours. The man prepared a snack for his visitors, even offering to slaughter one of the two sheep he owned, essentially about a third (he also had a goat) of his worldly possessions, according to the chaplain.

"This deployment was a tremendous growth experience," said Chaplain Cizek. "It was great to be able to interact with different people from diverse backgrounds, and see how we, as a human race, are similar. In addition, being separated from my wife and son for six months helped me to have a greater appreciation for how important they are to me."

So as many servicemembers return from deployments and turn in their protective gear and weapons to mobility, chaplains must gear up every day, preparing to light the path for the weary with spiritual beacons.