LDS advocate to armed forces

A longtime advocate for the Church to the U.S. Armed Forces, Kay Schwendiman is serving as the first LDS chairman of the executive committee of the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces (NCMAF).

NCMAF, with members representing 250 different faith groups that are authorized to endorse military chaplains, supports and assists the chaplaincy and individual chaplains.Brother Schwendiman was handed the chairman's gavel early in December at the NCMAF meetings in Washington, D.C. He is the first chairman of the executive committee from as far west as Utah; most of the previous chairmen have been from the Washington, D.C., area where NCMAF is based.

In December 1993, he was elected to the conference executive committee, serving a one-year term as chairman-elect. He will serve one year as chairman, and will complete his three-year service on the committee in 1996 as immediate past chairman.

That Brother Schwendiman was elected chairman by the membership demonstrates the recognition of the Church as a significant player in the inter-faith conference, said Paul Jensen, director of military relations for the Church.

Then he added: "Kay is a unique individual. I don't think everyone could handle the job like he has because he is open-minded, and yet he is totally at ease with his own faith. He accepts everybody as being children of God and makes no judgments. That's why he has gained respect. Other NCMAF members are ordained clergy and he has their absolute respect."

Brother Schwendiman believes he was elected because of the long time he has been a member of the conference and the relationship he has built with other members. "I've worked on some committees and got to know some of the people," he said. "I'm one of about three or four who have been members of the conference since it was organized in 1982."

The conference enables the faith groups, when they come to a consensus, to speak with one voice on issues they feel strongly about, Brother Schwendiman said. "The conference doesn't spend any time talking about doctrine," he explained. "We talk about issues related to religious ministry in the military."

Brother Schwediman has and will continue meeting with the chief of chaplains for each branch of service - the Army, Air Force, and Navy. (Navy chaplains also serve in Marine units).

"We speak with a strong voice to the three chiefs of chaplains and we can make suggestions, but the chiefs don't have to implement them," he said.

"We can't direct, but NCMAF acts as a resource. The chiefs of chaplains do know that we speak with some reason and authority because we represent all the faith groups."

Brother Schwendiman will direct the affairs of NCMAF during the year, conducting meetings and communicating with the branches of the military and Congress about issues of concern to NCMAF. He also plans to lead an evaluation of what NCMAF has done over the years to see "if we are following the path we set out for ourselves," he said.

Brother Schwendiman will wrap up his term next December when he conducts the conference's meetings.

Brother Schwendiman, a member of the Canyon Rim 1st Ward, Salt Lake Canyon Rim Stake, has extensive experience in the military. After returning from a mission to Argentina, he was drafted into the Army in 1944 and was later accepted into Officer Candidate School. He was commissioned and then went to the Philippines at the end of World War II. He was recalled during the Korean War and transferred into the Chaplain Corps. After leaving active duty, he stayed in the military with the Army Reserve. For the last 15 years before he retired in 1978 as a colonel, he was the 96th Army Reserve Command chaplain.

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