FORT LEE, Va. – “Letting others know you care is of paramount importance to ministry and military leadership.”
Chaplain (Col.) Terry E. Romine said he has lived by that philosophy for over two decades, or more specifically, 22 years on active duty and a little over 24 months with the Arkansas National Guard.
On April 24, he wrapped up his tour as garrison chaplain and CASCOM senior chaplain. The installation recognized his career contributions during a retirement ceremony that was livestreamed via www.Facebook.com/FortLeeReligiousActivities.
“Confidence, competence and compassion have been the guiding principles of my career,” Romine shared. “I am certain God called me to this ministry as an Army chaplain, giving me great confidence in who I am, where I am, and what I’m doing. Only by His grace has any of this career been possible.”
Seminary school, five years as a pastor for a small church in Arkansas, and his time in the National Guard served the foundational base of his second “C” – competence.
“I came to the Army well-trained and well-educated to be a minister,” Romine observed. “Translating that knowledge and experience into a skill that could be applied in a military setting was the next step.”
He focused on counseling techniques, and found the opportunity to help Soldiers and families greatly rewarding. The competence that had been granted to him became a tool in his kitbag that he would use to train other chaplains as his career progressed.
Compassion, the third “C,” is the overarching element of everything a chaplain does, Romine pointed out.
“It is vital to ministry and to leadership that the leader care about those in his care,” he acknowledged. “Sometimes, there is a challenge when compassion requires holding someone accountable, so it cannot be mistaken for permissive. Parents would not permit their child to ride a bicycle in the middle of I-95; compassion would require setting limits in their behavior.”
He used this way of thinking as he ministered to units throughout his career, starting with the guard’s 39th Infantry Brigade and his first active duty assignment with the 254th Infantry Training Battalion, Fort Benning, Ga. In total, he would serve in nine more units before coming to Fort Lee.
“I started in a TRADOC battalion, and will now end my time in military uniform on a TRADOC post,” he said with a proud smile. “Looking back, I would say the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart (Ga.,) was one of my favorite units because I was assigned as a family life chaplain. Doing counseling for Soldiers and family members was very satisfying. I felt like I made a difference in their lives.
“I felt I was needed the most there,” he continued. “Marriages were restored, units were encouraged and empowered, and chaplains were trained to improve their counseling skills becoming exponential in their impact.
“Moving forward several years, I know of at least three chaplains who later became family life chaplains. One of them told me a few weeks ago how our time together encouraged and inspired him to seek to become one, and that’s why he is serving in that position now.”
Romine explained that Family Life School and using his family life skills helped him grow the most during his career, and it changed how he sees himself and others.
“I deployed for 13 months with 3rd ID. That experience helped me see the value of the skill the Army provided me. Everything I have done since then is influenced by that training and experience, making me a better leader.”
He added, “I think it made me more patient, more compassionate and more understanding, and it allowed me to train, encourage and develop junior chaplains along the way.”
Of the people who helped his development in counseling, he said one stands out as an individual who made him a better leader.
“Chaplain (Col.) Bryan Walker, 3rd ID chaplain, helped me learn the art of being a field grade chaplain and how to apply my Family Life skills at a division staff level,” Romine said. “Following him was Chaplain (Col.) Bobby Whitlock. I temporarily served as the deputy division chaplain while we were deployed to Iraq where he demonstrated empowering leadership. He empowered me to do my job and to make decisions, and from him I learned what it means to be a servant leader.”
Garrison Commander Col. Hollie J. Martin has worked with that servant leader over the last 20 months, and she said it has been an honor and privilege.
“Chaplain Romine worked with the senior and garrison command teams daily, and he was always available and ready to support the growth and spiritual needs of others.
“He has worked incredibly hard to build and sustain our Command Master Religious Program,” Martin also observed. “Several aspects of the program included starting up new initiatives that required tremendous energy, resources and commitment to build – all centered on taking care of people and ensuring service and family member readiness.
“I have gotten to know him as an advisor, a chaplain and a leader who works tirelessly to serve others,” she summarized. “Looking at all the special moments from working together along the way, I will truly remember the fantastic experience I had serving alongside him in the service to our nation and our Fort Lee community.”
Romine and Cleta, his wife of almost 43 years, will be leaving the Fort Lee area and heading “home” to Arkansas where his goal is to create a counseling ministry.
“My primary focus will be to assist pastors of churches with counseling needs they may have for themselves and their families,” he said. “It will include retreats for pastors and spouses similar to Strong Bonds. There will be added seminars on counseling skills training to give them more competence in that area so they are better equipped to provide care for members of their respective churches.”
The garrison chaplain – for one more day at least – offered a final piece of advice for members of the community.
“If your identity is in what you do, when you don’t do that anymore, who are you?” he posed. “Know who you are apart from what you do. Focus more attention on your family with individual time with each of your children. Pay attention to your spouse, and make your marriage one that will last a lifetime. Finally, and certainly not the least important, build your relationship with God as it also requires focused attention and time. That faith connection is what will sustain you when life circumstances present challenges.”