Chaplain killed in Afghanistan is 1st Army clergy killed in action since Vietnam

By Dan Elliott, AP
Thursday, September 2, 2010

Army: Chaplain is 1st killed in action since ‘70

DENVER — A chaplain killed in Afghanistan this week was the first Army clergyman killed in action since the Vietnam War, the military said Thursday.

Capt. Dale Goetz of the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo., was among five soldiers killed by an improvised bomb on Monday.

Before Goetz, the last Army chaplain to die in action was Phillip Nichols, who was killed by a concealed enemy explosive in Vietnam in October of 1970, said Chaplain Carleton Birch, a spokesman for the Army chief of chaplains.

The Air Force said none of its chaplains were killed later than 1970. A spokesman for the Navy Chaplain Corps, which also provides clergy to the Marines, didn’t immediately return a phone call.

Goetz, 43, listed his hometown as White, S.D. He once served there as pastor of First Baptist Church, the Argus-Leader in Sioux Falls, S.D., reported. Goetz, his wife and their three sons recently joined High Country Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, where Fort Carson is located, the newspaper reported.

A church spokeswoman referred questions to the Army on Thursday, and Army officials declined to comment, citing the family’s wishes.

Officials said Goetz had hitched a ride on a resupply convoy when he was killed.

The Army has more than 2,800 chaplains, including those in the Guard and Reserve. More than 400 are in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Birch said chaplains are considered noncombatants and don’t carry weapons, but they are accompanied by a chaplain’s assistant, a soldier who is armed.

A chaplain’s assistant, Staff Sgt. Christopher Stout of Worthville, Ky., was killed in Afghanistan in July, Birch said.

Chaplains don’t go on combat patrols but do go onto battlefields to conduct services and counsel soldiers, Birch said.

“Many of those places where they travel are very dangerous,” he said.

Army chaplains go through their own training, which includes combat survival skills, Birch said. They don’t go through the same training that enlisted personnel or officers do.

Birch said commanders in Afghanistan would decide whether chaplains’ procedures will be reviewed or revised after Goetz’s death.

“Traveling in a war zone is very risky business …. Chaplains will continue to go where soldiers are on the battlefield to minister to their soldiers,” Birch said.

Army Chaplain Tim Vacok was gravely injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2006 and died in 2009 from a fall at a Minnesota nursing home, where he was being cared for because of his war injuries.

will not be displayed