From Korean Special Forces to Army Chaplain – United States Army
By Sgt. 1st Class Adam RossJuly 28, 2021
CAMP HENRY, Republic of Korea – “Impossible Makes Possible.”
It’s a motto that Ch. (Lt. Col.) Hyokchan Kim learned early in his first military career, and carried with him as he felt the call to become a U.S. Army Chaplain at the near-disqualifying age of 40.
“I have had some tough experiences, and whenever I have a challenge I can think of that,” said Kim, 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command command chaplain.
He learned the phrase as a young officer in the Korean Army shortly after he volunteered for Special Forces training. The official motto of Korean Special Forces, “Impossible Makes Possible” means there is always an alternative to quitting.
After finishing his military service in Korea, which included over 100 airborne jumps as an instructor, Kim headed to Las Vegas, Nevada, to earn his master’s degree and hopefully begin a career in hotel management. But as his studies drew to a close, he felt conflicted about beginning the next phase of life.
“Even though I accomplished that goal, my life was not satisfying,” said Kim. “That’s why I kept asking, ‘what can I do for my entire life?’ I felt God’s calling as a minister.”
Kim answered that calling, and spent more than a decade as a minister in Las Vegas. And though he had put down roots in the city, and started raising a family with his wife, he again felt like the next chapter in his life was a question mark.
“I was soon to be 40, and would ask God ‘what’s your plan for my life?’” said Kim. “God called to me and wanted me to be a U.S. Army Chaplain.”
The path on his new journey included memories of counseling Korean Soldiers during his time as an airborne instructor. In between training sessions at the four week-long course, then-1st Lt. Kim would strike up conversations with his airborne trainees and often find them breaking down in tears once they let their guard down.
“When I would touch the Soldiers and talk to them, they would cry,” said Kim. “They never had that connection.”
This ability to form connections with Soldiers gave Kim the confidence he needed to be an Army Chaplain, even though he was nearing the candidate age limit of 40.
One fortuitous circumstance gave Kim’s journey toward chaplain a boost: the regional chaplain recruiting headquarters was located down the street from Kim’s chapel. Soon he was meeting face-to-face with the recruiter who would help make him a chaplain.
“I was very nervous,” said Kim. “To start a new journey, there’s a lot of risk and fear, but he believed in me.”
Kim’s confidence in his calling led to him succeeding at the Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course, and selected to become an active duty chaplain.
Now as a senior chaplain with several assignments behind him, Kim is watching his children succeed in their early military careers. Kim’s daughter and two sons are all graduates of the U.S. Air Force Academy and are active duty Air Force officers.
A common face around Camp Henry, Kim makes the effort to personally meet each and every member of 19th ESC HHC to give them a thought-provoking quote and verse of the day in order to ensure he is there when most needed.
“He aspires to provide guidance and leadership to every member of his immediate and subordinate Unit Ministry Teams, while providing excellent religious support to the 19th ESC community,” said Ch. (Maj.) Curtis Sutherland, 19th ESC family life chaplain. “He enjoys all aspects of his position, and takes great pride in the role and function of the chaplain.”
Thanks to Kim’s unique life experiences, he is able to counsel Soldiers who feel out of place in a Korea. Having spent several years in Korea as an Army chaplain, Kim has many times found himself talking to a young Soldier who is having difficulty adjusting to service far away from home or struggling to find meaning in a new environment. In these interactions, Kim believes the best remedy is reminding a Soldier of their historic purpose in Korea.
“Even though you are a private or a first term Soldier, what you are doing is very important in keeping peace in Korea,” said Kim. “That gives them pride when they see how important their job is here.”