By Krystan Krucki
Alumnus Travels The World As U.S. Army Chaplain
From age 12, Chaplain (Brigadier General) Kenneth “Ed” Brandt ’81 felt a calling to serve in the church. Only decades later did he realize the calling was more specific: it was a calling to be a military chaplain. Now as the Chief Chaplain for the Army National Guard and National Guard Bureau Joint Chaplain, he has worked in all 50 states, three territories, District of Columbia, and countries around the world to provide armed forces with the support that can be found through faith.
Deployed in 2008, Brandt worked with American troops on the ground as they faced unimaginable struggles. Oftentimes, he would listen to and guide soldiers who had experienced a traumatic event. “In military chaplaincy, you’re dealing with life and death issues,” he said. “I work on helping them reframe their thoughts and think through how to attack their issues, and helping them through any spiritual issues or conflicts they may be having.”
After completing his tour, Brandt remained in the military in various roles, providing military leadership with guidance and working to expand the mission of chaplaincy around the world.
With his days of serving in a theater abroad behind him, Brandt now travels overseas as Chief Chaplain for the Army National Guard to work with foreign countries as part of an international network of military chaplains. In this role, he leads worship and says prayers at events but does not believe in proselytizing the service members he meets. Rather, his goal is to create a framework that is general in nature but brings out the best in humanity. To that end, he works with other chaplains for Muslims, Catholics, and Jews all over the world to ensure spiritual support for those who serve.
Each American state, territory, and District of Columbia are part of a state partnership program. Through these partnerships, leaders in the military chaplaincies have the opportunity to work together to generate new ideas and support one another. In some cases, they even work together to build a military chaplaincy program from the ground up, as did Brandt with Ohio’s partner country of Serbia in 2014. He went to the country and met with military leaders and spiritual leaders of various faiths to celebrate a program and partnership that will go on to help thousands of people in Serbia’s military forces.
Brandt’s Serbia experiences have emphasized to him how similar people around the world are, but how different life experiences can be. “We all have the same basic needs, the need to be validated, to have rites of passage, to be forgiven and redeemed,” he said. “The thing that makes us different is our cultural background, how we understand things.” Brandt finds the structure provided by the military beneficial to this type of spiritual outreach. He believes that working with leadership to solve issues and make decisions is a good model of teamwork and collegiality, which helps make hard decisions easier. “It doesn’t matter where a fellow chaplain is from, the theological language is spoken across national boundaries,” he pointed out.
As he helps others explore and strengthen their spirituality, Brandt learns more about himself and his role every day. “When you’re dealing with people from all walks of life, from all age groups, you need to know who you are,” he said. “As my role became more defined, I had a well of experience to draw from, and it had more of an impact on people to whom I was speaking.”
Brandt nurtured the calling he felt at a young age at the University of Findlay, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in religion, philosophy, and Christian education. He started his path on a campus grounded in Christian faith and grew through his education. Because of this, he has been able to help people around the world by connecting through faith.