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Evangel, AGTS grad is first female chaplain assigned to ‘Screaming Eagles’

July 24, 2013 | Valorie Coleman


Captain Delana Small knew she wanted to be a chaplain in the armed forces from the time she was 15.

Not only did she accomplish her goal, but she is the first female chaplain to be assigned to the 101st Airborne Division — the legendary “Screaming Eagles.”

Small deployed to Afghanistan in April. Her husband, who also is studying to be a chaplain, stayed behind in the states.

Congressional measures were the impetus to opening these positions to women, so all eyes have been on her.

“Because this unit is combat arms, it is a high profile position,” Small said, “but the soldiers don’t care if I am a female. They want to know if I can run and keep up with them, if I can pass air assault school and if I care about their needs.”

“The fact that I was selected, I defer to the sovereignty of God,” Small said. “I know God put me here, in a unit that I would not have even thought to ask for. He wouldn’t have put me here if it weren’t for something He has for me to do.”

Getting started

Small is a graduate of both Evangel University (’08) and Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (’12). While a student at Evangel, she participated in ROTC. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies and minors in Military Science, Leadership and Spanish. She received her Master of Divinity from AGTS.

“Evangel was awesome,” Small said. “The fact that they allowed me to get a Biblical Studies degree and participate in ROTC — that partnership was indispensable.

“At Evangel, people are trained to be the best in their field. That’s what Evangel did for me. They didn’t tell me what to think: they taught me how to think. That is so critical.”

Getting out of the comfort zone

Small has been at her new assignment for more than a year now. Before being deployed to Afghanistan, she reflected on becoming acclimated to her first “real job.”

“I don’t know when the day will come that I will not experience a first,” Small said. “The very first week I was  at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, I was at the gun line meeting all the guys who were assigned to each gun. One can know Army structure, but every unit, every branch is different. Field artillery has a unique structure. It is critical to learning how to provide ministry to these soldiers.”

Small functions as a pastor for the troops. She participates in chapel services every Sunday, often preaching the sermon. Through the week, she focuses on being available to the soldiers.

“In the morning, I’ll go out with them when they do physical training, so they can see I’m there. I try to be available whenever a soldier needs me,” Small said before being deployed.

“One of my other chaplain friends says, ‘If it stinks, then you want to be there.’ If I am 100 percent comfortable, then something’s wrong. That’s my check,” Small said.

Safe in God’s will

In considering her imminent deployment, Small talked about her concerns.

“I am obviously afraid of certain things,” Small said. “I’m afraid of not being with my husband, not being with my family. But most of all, I’m afraid of choosing to do the lesser thing — allowing what is comfortable or easy to do, to keep me from doing what God has called me to do.

The daily mission

These are strong words, coming from a big faith. Small takes each day as it comes, each assignment as it comes. She knew deployment would be a huge step in her growth — both personally and professionally. But her focus is on her daily mission of ministering to soldiers. If she has done that, she feels all is right with the world.

“One day, a soldier brought in a new soldier for processing,” Small said. “He paid me the highest compliment. He said, ‘You’ll see her a lot. She’s always out at the gun line with us.’”

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