The first time chaplain (Lt. Col) Thomas Faichney asked about becoming a military chaplain was in 1997, while living in Escondido, Calif. A recruiter then told the Canadian native he was ineligible because he wasn’t a U.S. citizen.
The second time Faichney inquired about becoming a military chaplain was in winter 2000, while living in Atlanta. He applied to join the Canadian military as a reserve chaplain, but was told they were not hiring.
So, when the subject of being a chaplain came up, a third time, later that summer while he helped establish the Reformed Theological Seminary, Faichney braced himself.
During an informal conversation, Scott Huber, the Army’s then-Southeast recruiter for chaplains, asked Faichney if he’d ever considered becoming a chaplain. “Funny you should ask,” Faichney told Huber, and then proceeded to tell his story.
Huber seized the moment. He told Faichney he was good to go, as long as he held a green card and became a U.S. citizen within five years of receiving his Army commission.
Encouraged by Huber’s words, Faichney and his wife, Tina, explored next steps. Under the guidance of an Army chaplain, the process took almost a year and required the endorsement of the Faichney’s home denomination, the Presbyterian Church. Faichney also needed to pass a physical test. But he met all the requirements, including eventually becoming a U.S. citizen in winter 2004.
It’s a place Faichney never thought he’d end up when he first felt the call to ministry as a missionary in high school growing up in Toronto. But, Faichney believes God had this planned for him all along. It was a matter of timing.
“God kept on providing prompts to ministry and service,” said Faichney, who was in his mid 30s when he switched from being a civilian pastor to becoming an Army chaplain.
So, 18 years, eight military bases and three deployments later, he continues to humble himself in helping Soldiers and their families make sense of life and loss through a spiritual lens, while balancing his professional needs with personal ones.
“You are nomadic and have no roots,” said Faichney, who started in June as Fort Belvoir Garrison chaplain. “And the trauma. You need to be willing to lay down everything. It’s sacrificial. It’s founded on love. Not just for country, but for God.”
Coming to Virginia
Faichney arrived at Belvoir from Joint Base Lewis McChord in Tacoma, Wash., where he served for two years as the chaplain for the 7th Infantry Division and its 12,000 members.
Coming to Belvoir required some adjusting. Instead of serving as a chaplain for one unit, Faichney now oversees a wide-range of areas for the base’s religious support office. But, while his level of responsibilities has increased, his mission remains the same: focus on spiritual readiness.
“We’re here to deliver religious support to Soldiers and be ready to meet them, wherever they are coming from, in their faith,” Faichney said.
To keep a proper perspective as a chaplain in a demanding physical environment, Faichney follows three rules he learned from a senior chaplain who did two tours in Vietnam with Special Forces.
The first is to always relax to the point of self-control. The second is to never take yourself too seriously. And the third is to choose to be happy, no matter the circumstances.
“It helps me to maintain a healthy, good and positive disposition,” Faichney said.
He also incorporates three values into his approach: love, devotion and to do things with excellence.
“Love powers it all,” Faichney said. “And you have to be all in, that’s the devotion, and do it with excellence … For me, this is all driven by the love of God so that I am devoted to my neighbor.”