In her hometown of Clarendon, Jamaica, Ruth Gakunga’s parents had high hopes their daughter would become a nurse. But the Chaplain Candidate with the 83rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 510th Regional Support Group, says she felt a different calling.
She enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2013, serving for nearly six years before entering the chaplain candidate program. Lt. Gakunga is now weeks away from finishing seminary and becoming a U.S. Army Chaplain.
Her recent experiences supporting Swift Response in Hungary, interacting with Hungarian, Polish and Romanian troops, and serving Soldiers in the European theater have convinced her she is doing what she was meant to do.
“I’m basically here providing for the soldier’s spiritual needs so they are ready for battle.” She said. “A ready soldier is a ready soldier, all around the board. Spirituality is very important and that’s why I’m here.”
Her work goes far beyond chapel services and Bible studies. On a recent hike to the Lichtenberg Castle in Kusel, Germany, with 83rd CSSB Commander Lt. Col. Andrea Talbert, Gakunga saw a couple with a small child having a heated discussion.
The married Soldiers had planned to take first birthday photos of their child, but their disagreement had created anything but a celebratory atmosphere.
“We were about to go up the mountain, and the husband slammed the car door and walked away,” said Gakunga. Concerned, Gakunga wanted to find him. When she and Talbert turned back, they found the wife with the baby. The mother shared a bit about the situation, and the husband eventually returned.
“God put them in my path,” said Gakunga. “And we all sat down and talked at this public hiking site.”
Talbert watched the baby so the couple could talk.
“I was able to get them together and have them say their peace,” said Gakunga. “As a young couple with a new baby, they needed some tools to navigate their new life.”
The impromptu counseling session went well, and Gakunga received a commendation for her efforts, with her commander remarking that she witnessed Gakunga save two lives that day.
That one on one interaction is Gakunga’s favorite part of her job. She views every opportunity to help someone as evidence of God’s love, as He sees fit to put people in her path.
“I’m just amazed at God’s eternal care for people,” she said. “He will move mountains for people.”
As she prepares to become a 56-Alpha (Chaplain), she is praying about going from reserve duty to active duty. It’s not a question of if, but of when, as she and her husband Michael raise their children Abigail, age two, and one-year-old Joshua.
No matter the timeline, Gakunga has faith that she will be in the right place at the right time.