by Public Relations Office - Cedarville, OH

December 22 edition of Dayton Daily News front page and another article inside with pictures.

Troops in Afghanistan get strong religious support Cedarville graduate says
he sees 'God's hand' protecting our troops.
By Margo Rutledge Kissell
Staff Writer
Friday, December 22, 2006
Chaplain Carleton Birch coordinates religious support for U.S. military
personnel serving in Afghanistan, including Christians, Jews and Muslims.
"Because I work in a headquarters, I am able to see God's hand in protecting
our service members," said Birch, 47, who runs a contemporary Protestant
service on base.
"We've had a rocket land 12 feet from one of our chaplains, but for some
reason it didn't explode. Another chaplain had the front end of his vehicle
blown completely off by a roadside bomb, but he and the rest of the
occupants walked away without a scratch," Birch said in an e-mail.
"Everywhere we go, we hear stories about God's hand of protection in
life-threatening circumstances.
"Unfortunately, we also must honor our fallen comrades, and every service
member who dies on the battlefield is honored through a memorial ceremony at
the Forward Operating Base and a ramp ceremony as his or her remains leave
Afghanistan for the States. Our chaplains are there throughout, providing
comfort so that the missions can continue."
'That Dayton connection'
Birch came into the Army in 1982 as a field artilleryman after he received a
bachelor's degree in business administration from Cedarville College.
He had come to the Miami Valley in 1977 in pursuit of that degree and
already had experience helping people.
He was a nationally registered emergency medical technician and was accepted
on the college rescue squad. The squad was part of the Dayton Chapter of the
Red Cross and its Disaster Reaction Team.
"One of the things I remember most is the great blizzard of 1978," he said.
"I remember classes being canceled and going out to individual residences to
help deliver supplies to people who were stuck in their homes."
Birch was deployed to Afghanistan in January. In March, he became a point of
contact for the Blue Star Mothers' Miami Valley Chapter 3 when the previous
chaplain was sent to Italy.
Beverly Peyton, Chapter 3 president, said members of the group, who all have
sons or daughters in the military, feel blessed to have connected with
Birch.
"For our letter to find its way into his hands and have that Dayton
connection to us was just short of a miracle," she said. "There are
thousands of troops out there. What are the odds?"
Birch, in turn, introduced the group to two other chaplains who would serve
as a pipeline of donated items from the Miami Valley. All three chaplains
had expressed a need for school supplies for Afghan children, and the Blue
Star Moms delivered.
"They are like our eyes and ears over there. They tell us what they need,"
said Peyton, whose group sent 1,355 pounds of school supplies that were
collected from school districts in Huber Heights, Kettering and Miamisburg,
and from other individuals and businesses in the community.
Birch also was involved in distributing care packages the group sent to the
troops in Afghanistan. In November, the group sent nearly 300 care packages
to troops serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, Japan and Korea.
As Birch's yearlong tour of duty in Afghanistan is coming to an end, he has
watched an elected government "trying to have an effect, but it takes time
to establish a central government areas where there has only been tribal
loyalties in the past."
He offered this observation about other challenges in Afghanistan:
"The Taliban practiced an extreme form of the Muslim faith, which stresses
intolerance of other faiths and mandates that women won't go to school or
work outside the home. The current situation is that less than 10 percent of
Afghans even have electricity and only about 25 percent can read. One of the
base elements of the economy is poppy. Afghanistan provides the harvest for
most of the world's opium," he said.
"It's a delicate balancing act, because most of the farmers know that
growing poppy is against Islam, but they know no other way to feed their
family."
Contact the reporter at (937) 225-2094 or mkissell@DaytonDailyNews.com


 
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OpERATION BRIDGE THE GAP
Winning a heart at a time
Cedarville graduate is a deputy chaplain in Afghanistan By Margo Rutledge
Kissell Staff Writer Friday, December 22, 2006 He arrived in Afghanistan 11
months ago, this Cedarville College graduate the soldiers call "Chaplain."
Carleton Birch, a major in the U.S. Army, is the deputy command chaplain for
Combined Joint Task Force 76 at a large air base surrounded by snow-covered
mountains.
Because of the treacherous conditions, most of the chaplains take
helicopters to get out and visit the soldiers.
"No matter how much hardship our soldiers have, the Afghan people usually
have it harder," Birch said in an e-mail. "They have been oppressed for many
years, first with the Russians and later under the Taliban."
The married father of four stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y., has also served as
the key coordinator for the Blue Stars Mothers of America's Miami Valley
Chapter 3, which has sent toys, school supplies and other items to help the
Afghan children.
"When you see pictures of smiling children receiving gifts that Dayton
residents have given, going to schools that Americans had built for them,
drinking water from wells military engineers have supplied, I can't help but
think that their eyes are opening up to a world outside of theirs - a world
very different from their own, but not as evil as they may have been
taught," Birch said. "I see this long war being won one adult and one child
at a time."