Chaplain (Maj.) Charles Popov is a man answering two calls of duty: one from his country, and one from his faith. After serving as an enlisted Soldier for four years, Popov left the Army to pursue a degree in biblical studies and master’s degrees in seminary studies and counseling psychology. However, in 1999, when he learned that the Army was seeking chaplains, Popov decided it was a perfect way to combine his commitment to serve with his passion for spiritual leadership. Shortly after completing Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course at the U.S. Army Chaplain’s Center and School at Fort Jackson, S.C., Popov was commissioned to the Chaplain Corps.
Popov notes that there are both similarities and differences between the roles of chaplain and civilian pastor. While both positions require the minister to act as a shepherd, caregiver and counselor, a chaplain must also be prepared to address the spiritual needs of Soldiers from a variety of backgrounds. While Army Chaplains may personally subscribe to one particular religion, he or she must also possess a wide-ranging understanding of many faiths and practices.
A large part of Popov’s job as chaplain involves ministering to Soldiers in theater. During his deployments to Iraq in 2003-2004 and 2006-2007, Popov was responsible for conducting Bible studies, holding counseling sessions and ministering to the wounded and dying Soldiers. His mission didn’t end at base boundaries. Popov also conducted humanitarian missions, such as providing food, clothing and fuel to Iraqi citizens. One of his fondest memories from his deployment was the chance to work alongside religious and community leaders, known as imams, to build a bridge between Christianity and Islam, including assisting in the rebuilding of mosques that had been destroyed in battles.
During his most recent deployment with the 25th Infantry Division, Popov spent many hours praying alongside over 300 wounded Soldiers from his unit and preformed rites for deceased Soldiers. It was difficult for Popov to balance the Soldiers’ needs for emotional support with his personal mourning of the loss of friends and colleagues. However, knowing that his Soldiers were counting on him, Popov was able to move forward and was able help those within his unit process their emotional struggles through conversation and prayer.
Popov is currently serving as the chaplain for 192nd Brigade, and oversees five battalion chaplains, including one Jewish rabbi. He currently resides with his wife at Fort Benning, Ga., and is a proud father of three grown children and grandfather of two grandchildren.