Deputy command chaplain broadens religious support to DLA reservists, HQC employees

By Beth Reece

PRINT  |  E-MAIL
Love God and love people: Army Capt. Demetrius Walton says his work at the Defense Logistics Agency is that simple, whether he’s on the firing range with members of the DLA Joint Reserve Force or saying an impromptu prayer with a troubled employee in the halls of the McNamara Headquarters Complex.

“I’m helping people on their religious journey and helping DLA take care of its employees,” said Walton, the agency’s deputy command chaplain and an Army reservist.

DLA has had a deputy command chaplain only since 2015, and Walton started in the position the following year. He’s using part of his time at the agency to expand religious support to DLA reservists during weekend drills. He also shares with DLA Command Chaplain Army Col. Carleton Birch responsibility for religious support during ceremonial events and pastoral counseling.

Providing religious services and counseling are chaplains’ priorities, but commanders also depend on chaplains to be neutral parties who can assess what Walton describes as “the human terrain” in their units.

“We’re always trying to evaluate morale and determine whether the environment is positive or toxic and whether there is loyalty among unit members,” he said. “So even though we focus on religion, we also look at the human piece and advise commanders on personnel issues that might need attention.”

Walton recently arranged for reservists to receive personality-assessment training based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Since DLA’s 150 reservists are from different services and cultural backgrounds, MBTI training helped them better understand their personality traits and those of their teammates. The benefit, Walton said, is better communication.

“It doesn’t matter what type of equipment, how many tanks or how many bullets a unit has. If you can’t communicate and don’t have healthy relationships, things won’t get done,” he said.

DLA’s reservists also spent a day in May learning how to increase trust among themselves with training based on Stephen Covey’s book “The Speed of Trust.”

“Once you have authentic trust in an organization, you don’t have to micromanage or create artificial processes to support what you’re doing as a team,” Walton said.

Army Capt. Claire Dermer, commander of DLA’s Army Reserve Element, said the training was well-received by soldiers on her team, as well as the sailors, airmen and Marines who make up the agency’s Joint Reserve Force.

“We really needed that opportunity to get to know each other better and figure out how we can best work together, too,” she said.

With many of DLA’s reservists serving on active duty across the country, Walton hopes to spend part of the next fiscal year extending religious support to them at their locations.

“The demands have really increased on the Reserves versus what they were 20 years ago,” he said. “Since 9/11, they’re deploying every four to five years, so it’s important that we make religious services and support available to them,” Walton continued, adding that Birch has visited DLA reservists deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait.

“There are a lot of challenges being in the Reserves,” Dermer added. “Most of the people in the DLA Joint Reserve Force have a full-time job with a full-time focus outside of the military, and most of us have families. Spiritual support, regardless of whether you consider it religious, can help us stay strong.”

Walton became a chaplain in 2011 after serving as an enlisted soldier in military intelligence. He was 22 and assigned to the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii when he became a Christian. As his faith grew, Walton began serving in the church, first by mentoring youth. He said God later appeared to him in a dream, granting him permission to serve full time. But that change didn’t happen overnight.

In 2003, Walton deployed to the Middle East, where he conducted aircraft surveillance over Iraq and Afghanistan. An Air Force chaplain there gave him the opportunity to lead a Bible study group for men.

“I started to see their lives change, and mine changed, too. It was a special time,” he said.

In 2005, Walton submitted paperwork to join the Army Chaplain Corps. The following year, he replaced the sergeant’s stripes on his uniform with a second lieutenant’s gold bar and entered the seminary. A sense of peace overcame him, he said.

“When you find what you’re supposed to do in life, you don’t have to fight it; you don’t have to force it. You’re not just doing a job to make money,” he said. “You’re doing it because it’s the natural outflow of who you are.”

Walton’s first assignment as an Army chaplain was with the military police battalion that was previously involved in torturing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. He joined the unit upon its return from deployment.

“It was tough ministry, but the unit was able to restore and rebuild after the scandal. We had a new battalion commander who brought in new noncommissioned officers and changed things around,” he said.

He was assigned next to the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command and was deployed to Kuwait in 2012-2013. Later, safe at home and back to serving one weekend a month, Walton was hired as a GS-12 prison chaplain for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Big Spring, Texas.

“I saw inmates give their lives to Jesus Christ; [I saw] hardened criminals not just get jailhouse religion but actually make a transformation of character that only God can do: new heart, new mind, new desires. It was beautiful,” Walton said.

But the inmates also tested him.

“I wasn’t so much afraid because of my faith. Jesus said, ‘When God is for you, who can stand against you?’ I told the inmates, ‘Hey guys, if you kill me, it’s a win because I get to go to heaven and be with Jesus.’ It would mess them up because it didn’t make sense to them.”

Being a chaplain is about leading people to God whether he’s working in a prison, on an Army base or with a predominately civilian workforce like DLA’s, Walton added. He’s there for employees whether they seek professional or personal support.

“He’s exactly what you would hope all chaplains would be,” Dermer said. “He pops in at the right times with a big smile on his face and asks simple questions like, ‘How’s your day?’ or ‘How are you doing?’ without pushing,” she added. “You know he cares about you even if you don’t know him that well.”

Walton can be reached at demetrius.walton@dla.mil.