NEWS | July 23, 2021

Missouri Army National Guard Welcomes its First Female Chaplain

By Sgt. Christopher Saunders Missouri National Guard

For 246 years, chaplains have provided religious services, counseling, and moral support to the armed forces, in peacetime or at war. This mission has remained unchanged since the Chaplain Corps was founded in 1775.  On July 3, 2021, Capt. Cassandra Schwartz became the first female chaplain to ever serve in the Missouri National Guard. Her journey to this day was not immediate.
 
“I initially joined to get experience and travel. I also wanted to serve the nation,” said Schwartz. ”I chose the Guard so I could serve my local community and stay close to home.”
 
Schwartz grew up in a small community on a family farm in Minnesota and at seventeen years old, she enlisted in the Minnesota Army National Guard in 1999. Her first Military Occupational Specialty was as a 63W (Heavy Duty mechanic) which was converted to 91B (Wheeled Vehicle Repairer).  She served as a mechanic for nine years, but she started feeling like she needed to do something different. “I felt like the lord was calling me to do something else besides being a mechanic.”
 
While mobilized for Operation Noble Eagle at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, a friend of Schwartz discussed how she’d noticed that many people chose to talk with Schwartz about their problems, “…So that was kind of the Ah-ha moment when I thought, maybe I’m gifted in counseling and caring for people and that’s what gave me the idea for pursuing chaplaincy.” But Schwartz had concerns about what would have to be accomplished first.
 
“I had actually looked into becoming a chaplain candidate back in 2007… but I knew I had to finish out my bachelor’s degree before I could meet the requirement of a masters in divinity.”
 
When the time came, Schwartz decided not to reenlist but rather to focus on her family.  She continued that focus for eight years.
 
In 2011, she earned her Bachelor’s degree and began to feel the call to serve once again.
 
“I think what makes the Guard unique is that soldiers are able to serve their community and nation at the same time. They are able to have a civilian life as well as military life.”
 
After an eight-year break in service, Schwartz came back in the military as a 2nd Lieutenant and chaplain candidate. It would be another four and a half years before she would see her vision of being a chaplain come to fruition.
 
“Knowing I am making a difference in the lives of my soldiers by being there for them in their time of need is really the most rewarding part about being in the Guard.” She has developed a strong perspective on the needs of service members.
 
“Both me and my husband of 20 years serve.” Her husband Randall Schwartz, is a Chief Warrant Officer 2 in the Army Reserves.
 
“We have a dual military household, which can be difficult at times with four kids. Anytime a parent leaves it can be challenging for you and your children… not just physically being separate, but emotionally challenging as well.”
 
She has come to appreciate those around her, “we have a great support system that helps us. We have family and church community friends that greatly support us and our military lives.”
 
Schwartz is still a full-time mom. And even though she is eligible for retirement in the next six years, she plans to stay in the National Guard as long as she can. Her long-term goal is to be a chaplain full time, so that she can help as many people as possible.