White Sands Missile Range Chaplain Lt. Col. Donald Carrothers is the new chaplain who will be serving the WSMR community. Carrothers, who requested the assignment to WSMR, has served the surrounding area before as a teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
- Where are you from and where is home for you?
I am an Air Force brat. I was born in Mississippi but I never lived there. My father was on active duty until I was a junior in high school. Home is really where I live.
- Who are your family members?
My wife Marinell, she’s from Mississippi, she was raised there all of her life. My two children: Scott, 25, was born in Raton, New Mexico, and Doug, 27, was born in Fort Worth, Texas.
- When you were younger what did you aspire to be?
I wanted to be a fighter pilot because that’s what my dad was, but from a very young age I had pretty bad eyesight. I realized in high school that I would not be able to fulfill that dream. I always wanted to join the military though.
- What led you to the Army?
The Chaplains answer to God. I was a school teacher in Albuquerque for a while, then I felt a call to the ministry. I went to graduate school in Fort Worth, Texas, and while there my mom sent me a clipping for an Air Force chaplaincy recruitment ad. I had never even thought about it. I joined and because I was so smart I finished a three year program in four years. I knew I needed two years of experience before I could be considered, so I served in a Baptist church in Utah. I’ve always had a desire to serve my country, but I gave up when my eyes did not allow me to serve. I found a calling again through chaplaincy. With the Air Force though they just take a percentage of chaplains. I was told it would be seven years before I could get a position, but that the Army was hiring. I’m glad because the Army style of ministry is much more fitting to my personality. I first served in active duty in 1993.
- Do you have any stories you would like to share from your time in the Army?
I served the Army for five years beginning in 1993. I left to serve as a senior pastor. When Sept. 11, 2001 happened I had already been gone for four years, but due to the nature of the event and the fact that they were short on chaplains, I was called back to active duty. I served for two more years when I decided to resign my position as pastor and came back. You just always have to be prepared because you never know when that one phone call can change your life. Some of the best days in my life have been in the Army with the people I’ve met, and some of my worst days have been in the Army. Watching how much military families have to endure, they really carry a huge burden. I remember it was my 19th wedding anniversary, Dec. 21, 2004 after the big Fallujah battle a suicide bomber came into our dining facility and killed 22 people and injured several others. That day is now marred for me. Significant event for families sometimes happen to fall on other bad memories and sometimes emotions get mixed together. Families sometimes take a beating.
- What have you learned from previous leadership roles?
You have to take care of people. People are the most important thing you have to take care of. If you do that I think you’ll be successful. The military is a people business.
- Is there anyone who helped guide you to where you are today?
There’s just been so many people. In the spiritual realm of course my faith is important. My wife has played a very crucial role in getting me to where I’m at today. The Army lost my packet three times and I was ready to say that was God’s way of letting me know this wasn’t my calling, but my wife told me I never gave the Army the opportunity to tell me no. I submitted the packet one more time and that’s why I’m here today. Col. DA Sims was my XO, he was one of my mentors and really did a great job. He’s the kind of guy to tell you, you really messed up and give you guidance but not make you feel bad about it. He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever served with in the Army.
- What do you and your family like to do for fun?
We’re empty nesters, so for fun my wife and I like to enjoy local restaurants. We’ve been here for two months and we’ve visited a couple of restaurants in Las Cruces and El Paso, Texas, that’s sort of our vice. The other thing we like to do for fun is getting into the local history, that’s a lot of fun for us.
- What do you like to do for fun?
Photography, I’m kind of an amateur.
We’re excited about it. I requested it and Chaplain West was retiring soon. It’s all about timing for us. It’s kind of like living in the ultimate gated community. We enjoy the chapel community here. The Army chaplains usually aren’t assigned to a chapel, normally they’re assigned to a battalion. It’s very different for a military chaplain to have a large civilian community.
11) What do you hope to accomplish while you’re here?
We hope to accomplish a couple of things. We want to create a dynamic place of worship for the religious community. We can always get better. I’d like to see if we can get the funding to get a youth pastor. I’d also like to professionally grow myself in some ways. Normally on an Army post you have anywhere from 20 to 70 chaplains to bounce ideas off of.