Westmont Magazine Answering a Call to Active Duty
Deployments have become commonplace in recent months, with media stories featuring departing soldiers hugging tearful spouses and young children.
But reservists of all ages and professions have headed overseas, including Command Chaplain Col. Ron Cobb ’65, now serving in Bosnia. He leaves behind his wife, Kathleen, his parents, two sons and two grandchildren. The Capital-Journal in Topeka, Kan., told his story in an Oct. 26, 2002, article by Phil Anderson.
The 59-year-old pastor and addiction counselor received a special waiver to stay with the Army’s 35th Infantry Mechanized Division during its Bosnian deployment. For the past nine years, Ron has worked with this National Guard unit based at Fort Leavenworth. Before Desert Storm, he briefed soldiers on Islamic religion and culture, and he has long taught world religion courses at Friends University. He also serves as a chaplain for the local veteran’s hospital and for substance abuse recovery programs.
Ron helped the Ukrainian army set up its own chaplain corps during a 1999 Progress for Peace Army National Guard Mission in Kiev, Ukraine. On board the USS Mount Whitney command ship, he participated in a NATO training mission in 2000 that featured scenarios similar to the situation in Bosnia.
With this background, Ron has much to offer during his six months in Bosnia. He builds on the work of previous Army chaplains as he ministers to about 2,000 soldiers, Department of Defense employees, and other American support personnel.
One of Ron’s goals is establishing interfaith cooperation by visiting Jewish, Islamic, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders in the area. In a region where personal identity is closely tied to religion, few people actively attend religious services.
As Ron told the Capital-Journal, “It would be great to bring the Islamic mufti, the Serbian Orthodox leaders and the Croat Catholic priests to the highest qualities of their religions, which talk about forgiveness, peace and compassion.”
Witnessing the destruction in Bosnia has been sobering for Ron. After a helicopter flight over a northern region of the country he wrote, “As we neared the area of heaviest fighting, farms were abandoned, villages destroyed, and many homes had no roofs. The devastation was unmistakable. There is no doubt seeing these empty fields and homes that hatred and war often go hand in hand.”
The “intense academic standards” at Westmont helped Ron earn two master’s degrees and a doctorate and complete Army Command and General Staff School. “My professors were so inspirational to me academically. Through their encouragement, I have published numerous articles in academic, professional, military and religious journals,” he notes.
The college’s commitment to Christ as preeminent has also inspired him. “At Westmont and throughout the rest of my life, I have found this orientation to be invaluable,” he says. “So many churches and so many pastors and Christian institutions get caught up in traditions, in “churchianity,” and in religiosity, and forget that Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, needs to be the center of everything. Otherwise nothing else makes sense.”