LAKEWOOD RANCH — Ted Hamm has been exercising a bit more than usual lately.
Sure, he always liked to stay active by playing Ultimate Frisbee and tennis, but, now, he’s found a new cadence — running. His big motivator stems from what happens over the next few weeks, when Hamm and his family relocate and start a new life chapter, as a military family.
This month, Hamm concludes six years of serving as Cornerstone of Lakewood Ranch’s assistant pastor to become a chaplain for the U.S. Army.
“This church has been great; there are so many people we’ve grown to love,” Hamm said. “They’ve been very gracious and supportive.”
But, Hamm also is eager for a new adventure — one that will have him spending more one-on-one time with people and less on administrative responsibilities.
This month, Hamm and his family — wife, Lucibeth, and four children: Craig, Bailey, Benjamin and Jaynie — leave for Charlotte, N.C., where they have plenty of friends nearby to help support them during the transition.
Hamm will start chaplain training Sept. 15, at Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C.
There, he will spend 13 weeks in a boot camp for chaplains. He’ll also learn to use a compass and military radios, conduct military funerals and perform other job requirements.
“I can’t wait to do the obstacle course and ride in Humvees,” Hamm said, grinning. “I’m all guy; it’s exciting to me.”
Hamm and his family hope to be stationed in the Southeast, and Hamm has applied to be assigned to one of three bases — Fort Bragg, in North Carolina; and Fort Benning and Fort Stewart, both in Georgia.
Hamm, who participated in a JROTC program with his brothers in high school, has always respected the military; his father is retired Air Force, and his brother serves in the Air Force, as well. His father-in-law is retired from the U.S. Army.
After college, Hamm spent 10 years working in human resources, before starting seminary in 2003.
“When I went to seminary, military recruiters would invite students to learn about the need soldiers had for spiritual support,” Hamm said. “That really appealed to me.”
But the timing, he said, wasn’t right, with two small children and another on the way.
“I never completely forgot about it,” Hamm said.
In late 2012, Hamm was looking for a new set of challenges, when a friend called and casually mentioned Hamm was approaching the age limit — 42 years old — for becoming a military chaplain; at the time, Hamm was 41.
He broached the subject with his wife.
“(Lucibeth) said, ‘It sounds like it suits us now,’” Hamm said. “The next day, I sent in an application to start (the process).”
As a military chaplain, Hamm will be both a soldier, with an initial rank of first lieutenant, and a pastor.
By law, he won’t carry a weapon, but he will be attached to a battalion of about 1,000 soldiers, with whom he will do “ministry of presence,” participating in training exercises and building relationships with them.
Although Hamm will experience boot camp, he wants to be in the best shape possible as he enters his new career.
“When I go to units, it would be disrespectful, as a chaplain, to not be able to do (what they do),” Hamm said. “I want to be ready to do whatever I can.”
As a chaplain, he could be sent to provide counsel to soldiers on the battlefield, lead impromptu church services, initiate Bible studies or make sure the religious dietary requirements of soldiers are being met, for example.
Hamm said he will never have to compromise his Christian beliefs, but his role as chaplain will be to support soldiers of all religions.
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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