The goal of a chaplain is to bring Soldiers to God and God to Soldiers, said Garrison Chap. (Col.) Harry A. Rauch III.
Rauch has been in his new role as the garrison chaplain for only a few weeks, but he said he is looking forward to working with the people of Fort Riley.
"I came on active duty as an Army chaplain in 1988, so I've been in right around 24 years as a chaplain," he said.
Rauch said he began his military career in the mid-1970s as an enlisted sailor on the USS Richard E. Byrd. It was during his four years of service in the Navy that he began to understand the meaning of being a Christian, he said.
"I grew up in a church Family, and it wasn't until I got out into the world, so to speak, that I found my own faith after experiencing life and its hard knocks," Rauch said, "but it was through the ministry of a Christian group called the Navigators and my division, or what would be equivalent to a platoon leader in the Navy, (who) shared with me that I could have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and at that time, I was searching for the purpose of my life."
Rauch was about 22 years old when he decided to become a Christian, he said.
"I accepted Christ, and I began to grow as a Christian and getting to know God, and, as a result, coming to know myself, and then I guess it was, in a sense, a progressive call to fulltime Christian service," he said.
Rauch said he was unsure at the time what full-time ministry looked like for him, and so he decided to attend Colombia Bible College, now Colombia International University, in Colombia, S.C., after his service in the Navy.
"While I was in Bible college, they had you do these Christian service assignments where you go out into the community … My senior year was at Fort Jackson, (S.C.), because it was right there (near the college)," he said.
Rauch worked at the Anderson Street Chapel with Soldiers going through advanced individual training. It was working with other chaplains that encouraged him in his search to be involved in ministry, he said.
"It was a good experience because, as I was mentioning it was a progressive call in what I wanted to do, there were chaplains there that encouraged me to think about becoming a chaplain," Rauch said.
Rauch graduated from the Bible College in 1985 and decided to attend Denver Seminary in Denver. He became a chaplain candidate and interned with other chaplains.
"During the summer, you did a couple of weeks at a nearby post and interned with a chaplain. You couldn't do anything official, but you could walk around with the chaplain and see what they did," Rauch said. "That was a good experience, so my desire to be a chaplain grew even more through that chaplain candidate program, and when I graduated, I was ordained and came on active duty."
He received his master's degree in divinity in the summer 1988 and became an active-duty Army chaplain in October.
Rauch began his Army chaplain career as a battalion chaplain with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky. In 1990, he deployed to Desert Shield/Storm, which he said was a helpful experience.
"In terms of bonding with the unit and facing the enemy, (the war) went pretty quickly, which was a good thing, so it was a good experience," Rauch said.
Rauch also gained experience as a battalion chaplain in Schwabisch Hall, Germany, from 1991 to 1993, and Vicenza, Italy, from 1993 to 1996. He participated in various Army operations, including Operation Support Hope-Rwanda, from July to August 1994; Operation Joint Endeavor-Bosnia, from 1995 to 1996; and Operation Assured Response-Liberia, in April 1996.
"Overseas, it's less of an opportunity for Soldiers and Families to go into the community and go to church because you are living in a different culture and language barriers, so the chaplain program was pretty significant," he said, "and, it was an excellent opportunity to grow as a chaplain, in regards to pastoral ministry to Soldiers and their Families."
Rauch continued serving as a battalion chaplain with every permanent change of station until 1996, and regards battalion chaplains as the most influential in a Soldiers' life, he said.
"Chaplains who have the most impact on our Army are the ones who are down in the battalions – captain chaplains, who are making their rounds and getting to know their Soldiers, Rauch said. "They're bringing God to the Soldiers, and (the chaplains) are being themselves, so the Soldiers look at them and hopefully they see something that's different in regard to their strength."
Rauch became a major and served as the Family life chaplain in Heidelberg, Germany, from 1999 to 2002, after receiving a mid-career, master's degree in psychology from the University of Central Texas.
"That's the good thing about chaplaincy, usually when you're just getting ready to be promoted to major, you're being offered this mid-career graduate program," Rauch said.
Rauch said he chose this degree as a way to effectively minister to Soldiers and their marriages.
"A Family life degree allowed me to get more experience in that area to where couples were coming to me, and I believe I was helping them in terms of their marriage relationships," he said.
Now as a colonel, Rauch faces new challenges in serving as a chaplain, he said.
"The higher up in rank, I think the challenge is that you become more and more removed from the Soldiers," Rauch said. "As I've progressed, I have to make a special effort to make time and go around visiting our work force here at garrison and my chaplains."
Rauch said he believes one of his primary purposes here is to support the commander and the workforce at garrison.
"You have to be a team and know the commander is the boss, and you've got to work with the commander to help him achieve his priorities. That's key," Rauch said.
Rauch also said he wants to be an encouragement to civilians supporting the work of Fort Riley troops.
"In terms of the people that support our Soldiers, that is what our garrison does – support our Soldiers and Families, and our Department of the Army civilians are doing that every day," Rauch said. "I just want to encourage them that what they do is important."
Serving 24 years as an Army chaplain would not have been possible without the support of his wife and the couple's daughter Rauch said.
"We were married in 1983, and you've got to both be on board in terms of ministry and supporting each other, otherwise it just won't work," he said. "You'll end up wanting to get out. It's been a great experience for our Family, and they've been very supportive.