Marines Magazine

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Q & A: Rear Adm. Margaret G. Kibben

On July 9, REAR ADM. MARGARET KIBBEN became the first female chaplain of the Marine Corps. Serving on the commandant’s staff in Washington, her duties include advising the commandant on the delivery of religious ministry and ensuring the Navy Chaplain Corps is manned, trained and equipped to meet religious ministry requirements throughout the Marine Corps.

The Chaplain of the Marine Corps advises newly-selected commanding officers at the Commanders Course at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., discussing with them their responsibilities to ensure the free exercise of religion for their Marines.

Chaplains and religious program specialists offer four core capabilities in response to national and service regulations and requirements:
• Facilitate the religious requirements for faith groups not their own by indirect ministry (lay leaders, contracts, other chaplains).
• Provide religious and sacramental ministry to Marines of their own faith groups.
• Care for all Marines no matter whether they have any self-identified religion.
• Serve as advisers to commanding officers.

Do you have family in the military?
My husband is a retired Marine lieutenant colonel having served the Corps 26 years. My father is a retired lieutenant commander in the Navy. Having enlisted in World War II, he joined the reserves and was later commissioned an officer. I am the seventh naval officer in my family.

What religious denomination are you?
Presbyterian.

What inspired you to go into religious ministries within the military?
I decided in eighth grade that I wanted to be a minister. The summer after my junior year in high school, I had the chance to visit a boyfriend who had entered the Naval Academy. I realized while visiting him that I would really like to serve in the military. It didn’t take long, maybe a day, for me to realize that I could do both if I pursued being a Navy chaplain.

What has kept you in the service of our nation for more than 20 years?
I’ve been active duty for a little over 24 years, and each time I was asked how long I would stay in, I’d answer, “as long as the Navy likes me, and I like the Navy.” I guess you could say we’ve liked each other for all these years. Seriously, I have not only loved this ministry but, I have always felt called to remain in this ministry. There has not been one tour that I have felt that God isn’t using me in some way or another. There have been tours where that was clearer than others but overall, the opportunity to serve sailors and Marines has been one of the greatest gifts God has provided me. I have never felt called to serve him anywhere else.

How has serving alongside Marines and sailors affected you personally in life?
Aside from marrying one? I am rewarded daily by the enthusiasm, dedication and true commitment today’s Marines and sailors demonstrate in the face of extreme adversity and challenge. And I am a better person for it, as they “keep me honest” to remain on par with that same level of enthusiasm, dedication and commitment.

How important is religion and faith to the Marine Corps?
Marines represent the essence of “Semper Fi.” Obviously, that phrase is intended to mean faithful to the Marine Corps or to the mission, but by and large, most Marines are faithful to their understanding of God. The importance of religion, however, seems to have changed with time. The underlying discussions of faith and life remain the same, but the resources today’s Marines draw from have changed. When I first came in, corporate worship services or sitting in Bible studies provided the spiritual answers most were looking for. While that remains important to some, and I’d like to say many, it has become much more personal.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and suicide prevention continue to weigh heavily on commands Corpswide. What can Marines do individually to encourage their peers to stay in the fight?
What I believe Marines need to fight for is the preservation of their humanity and that of their fellow Marines. War attempts to rob us of that – sometimes physically, often times emotionally and spiritually. The first thing each Marine needs to realize is that the battle doesn’t just take place on the battlefield, it takes place every moment that our individual and corporate sense of right and wrong is threatened. And it comes home with us. What we have experienced has now become a part of who we are, and will serve to define us for good or ill. We as a Corps, as peers and as individuals, need to take the time to look out for the scars this internal battle leaves, to acknowledge that there is no such thing as coming out of traumatic events unaffected. The strong remain strong only when they acknowledge that there are justifiably moments of weakness. It’s critical that we address and not ignore the fact that there will be times when we don’t have all the answers, when it’s important to reach out to someone to process the thoughts and feelings we’re all prone to. Only then, when we allow ourselves to consider and accept the full range of human emotions we become stronger as individuals and as a Corps.

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  • Gabrielle Gabler

    Congratulation – it’s a huge and a good step to be the first female chaplain of the Marine Corps.
    Good luck

  • Mark Chapman

    Dear Rear Adm. Kibben,
    Doug is a jerk. Your comment on “Who care’s who the shepard is as long as the flock is tended with the best care?” It’s a well known fact most men will confide in a woman before he would a man. I didn’t make it far in the Marine Corps due to a disability but am making it as a Minister Also I am Presbyterian and THANK YOU for your service to mankind.
    Mark Chapman

  • Robert Collie, Th.D.

    Dear Adm. Kibben:
    I was delighted to read your article. My wife (a respected professional colleague) and I will be getting out a book in May, The Apostle Paul and the Post Traumatic. We are both in the congregation of First Presbyterian in Fort Wayne, Ind. We would be delighted to discuss some possibilities with you. Robert Collie, Th.D.

  • Kim

    In response to Doug:
    That’s Rear Adm. Kibben to you, NOT just Mrs. Kibben. A female (of whatever profession) has many roles and duties to perform, and doesn’t need a sexist individual to remind her of pre-existing gender roles that are antiquated and down-right discriminatory.
    I’ve yet to see a soldier trust another male more than he trusts a female in terms of more spiritual and emotional care. On average, females are confided in more of faith, feelings, etc. And besides, who cares who the shepherd is as long as the flock is tended with the best care?

    Shame on you for being so misogynistic and patronizing.
    Go Marines, both male and female.

  • Deedir

    Why does the military maintain positions for these myth pushers?

  • Doug

    As i respect Mrs. Kibben for her dedication to our Lord Jesus Christ, it is not for women to serve over other men as a pastor, chaplain, priest or any other head. Let me give you some versus that you should take into account…

    Many women excel in gifts of hospitality, mercy, teaching, and helps. Much of the ministry of the local church depends on women. Women in the church are not restricted from public praying or prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:5), only from havin…g spiritual teaching authority over men. The Bible nowhere restricts women from exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12). Women, just as much as men, are called to minister to others, to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and to proclaim the gospel to the lost (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15).

    ‎(1 Timothy 2:11-12). 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

    (1 Timothy 2:13-14). God, through the apostle Paul, restricts women …from serving in roles of teaching and/or having spiritual authority over men. This precludes women from serving as pastors, which definitely includes preaching to, teaching, and having spiritual authority over men.

  • Kurt Michaelson

    OOOHRAH! Good to go Chaplain!

  • Walter Cox

    Chaps, What a great surprise to see this article posted on Facebook by on of our own, Daniel Ochoea. We wish you the best in your new assignment, and hope that we can see you in San Diego, CA when the New USS SAN DIEGO LPD-22 is commissioned. I will be speaking with CDR Haydel, PCR USS SAN DIEGO LPD-22 to see if he can request your presence through Gen. Amos, who was Guest Speaker at LPD-22 Christening. It would be fitting to have you participate in this History making ceremony.

    Best wishes to you and your family in 2011. Take care and please stay in touch,

    V/r
    Walt Cox
    USS SAN DIEGO AFS-6
    Reunion Committee

  • Hailey Maevers

    Here you go Hailey….thought you would like this.

  • Kathleen

    As the daughter of a WWII Marine Veteran who manged to be true to his Lord and Savior as well as himself, I say thank you for your service, especially in your ministry.

    If my Dad had not “held it together”, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. He was ALWAYS a Marine, to the end. Taught his family about faithful service to God and Country. Made us aware of how fortunate we are to live in the United States and to appreciate those who have made this possible down through history. FREEDOM IS NOT FREE. ALL gave some. SOME gave ALL. Bless you, all. You carry a special place in my heart and I do want to say “thank you” to all Serviceman who read my reply. Semper Fi (Do I have the right to say that?)