Halfway Around The World Local man ministers to Afghanistan troops

Published 7:00 pm Thursday, June 20, 2013

For some, the average workday begins with coffee runs and phone calls. For others it starts with sitting at a computer and answering emails.

But for U.S. Army Chaplain Capt. Ronnie Irwin, each day opens with a two-hour praying session on the other side of the world.

Irwin, a 1985 graduate of Brookhaven High School, commences each day of his Afghanistan deployment by praying for convoys going “outside the line,” or those traveling with supplies or retrogrades. He prays for more than just a safe return; he also prays for their families back home.

Next, he makes his way to the dining facility for breakfast and fellowship with the soldiers. Talking to the soldiers is Irwin’s favorite part of his job, whether it’s during mealtime or visiting offices throughout the base

“We visit with the soldiers, see them and give them encouragement, so we can build a relationship,” Irwin said. “So that if they have a crisis, they feel comfortable coming us.”

After breakfast, the chaplain goes to his office and deals with his administrative duties. Throughout the day, he will see anyone who feels like they need counseling, whether it is because of military issues or familial concerns. Irwin’s duty is to help the soldiers through the difficult times, whatever the cause.

“Being in the Army is pretty tough, whether we’re in garrison or deployment,” he said. “My favorite part is to build a relationship and minister to them because the demands of being a soldier are very high.”

Being deployed means working seven days a week. However, for chaplains, Sundays have a slightly different routine because of church services.

Every Sunday, Irwin has a morning service, which usually includes about 40 people, and an evening service, with anywhere from 60 to 80 attendees.

Irwin joined the army almost five years ago after serving in local ministry for 23 years. When he is not deployed, Irwin lives in El Paso, Texas, at Fort Bliss.

“But my heart is in Brookhaven, Mississippi,” he said.

Irwin, the son of the late Rod Irwin and Gloria Irwin, said he enjoys visiting his wife’s parents, Ronny and Gayera Robinson, in Brookhaven with his two children, Emily and Michael.

For anyone interested in military chaplaincy, Irwin recommends future chaplains get a solid education and plug into the local church. Military chaplains are required to have a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree in theology and two years in a local church ministry.

“Just pray about it,” he said stressing that chaplaincy and ministry are both callings.

Irwin is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and attended the Southern Baptist seminary in New Orleans.