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Veteran chaplain ‘hacking hearts and minds’ at Cyber Shield

By Spc. William Phelps | Indiana National Guard | April 15, 2019

CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. – Soldiers and Airmen pound on keyboards. They talk with faces still glued to monitors as if they are talking to the computers and cables, their words a staccato of high tech jargon – chaos monkey…button masher…clicktivism…the cloud…data boomerang…death by tweakage…enterprise data…hamster dance…huge pipes… ijack.

And in walks Kentucky Army National Guard Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Bill Draper, grey-haired, welcoming smile, who speaks with slow meticulously placed words and a hint of southern twang. Draper is the chaplain for Cyber Shield 19 from April 5-19 at Camp Atterbury, Indiana.

This kind-hearted, soft-spoken native of Georgetown, Kentucky, has won his way into the hearts of these Monster-guzzling, highly caffeinated, top-of-the-line information technology Soldiers of Cyber Shield 19.

Draper has 37 years in the Army, 18 enlisted. He’s been deployed to Afghanistan multiple times and has ministered to military police, combat engineers and aviators. Now the Kentucky National Guard Joint Force Headquarters chaplain, he’s volunteered to provide chaplain service to the Soldiers and Airmen of Cyber Shield 19, the National Guard’s premier cyber training exercise.
The cyber defense exercise involves about 800 personnel from the Army National Guard, Air National Guard, Army Reserves, and cyber experts from industry as well as local, state and federal agencies.

It also has one grey-haired, easy-going man of the cloth.

“Ninety-nine point nine percent of what is said is over my head, but I realize that as the chaplain, the basic needs are all the same,” Draper said. When Soldiers leave home for training or deployment, they face similar challenges, he added.

And a good chaplain is there to support them.

“Chaplains aren’t aviators, they aren’t engineers, and they’re not MPs, they’re chaplains,” Draper said. “Each of those branches and MOS’s have their uniqueness, their pride, and their legacy. So as Chaplain, when we’re assigned to those types of units, a challenge is to learn what that looks like and learn their heritage in order to connect.”

Draper pulls you in with each word and keeps you engaged with ease. And he wants to learn all he can about these high-tech troops.

"When the chaplain got here, he said 'I don't know what they're doing, but I can tell they're doing good things.' Now he's hacking hearts and minds," said Col. Teri Williams, the Commander of Cyber Shield 19.

When he first enlisted, typewriters were used. Draper now uses his cell phone to care for his flock of cyber warriors. Draper captures notes on his iPhone. He supplements his visits with follow-up text-messaging. He shows troops how to get a daily dose of scripture through smartphone apps.

“I felt honored to be able to interact and help Chaplain Draper as we comforted a Soldier whose mother had recently passed. He (Draper) was able to provide a Bible and an MP3 player to help comfort the Soldier,” said Sgt. 1st Class Graham Albert of the Florida Army National Guard.

However, these tech-savvy methods supplement rather than supplant. There is no substitute for human-to-human contact for chaplains.

“We do that through ministry of presence. We go around and talk to Soldiers,” said Draper, who entered the Chaplain Corps in 2004. At Cyber Shield 19, he is always on the move. He hops around from area to area checking on troops, meeting the instructors and staff, providing a quick laugh – or comfort and support.

Sgt. 1st Class Albert said, “It is important to be there for each other emotionally and spiritually in times of need. It makes us a stronger force.”

Chaplain Draper has seen his high-tech warriors in action and has no doubt they will succeed and meet their training objectives during Cyber Shield 19.

“The internal mission will go well. These Soldiers do a great job and the mission will go well. It’s the external things that go on while the Soldier is away from home that are sometimes challenging,” he said.

And if one of his cyber warriors needs him, he’ll be there faster than a bandwidth hugger can send a megabyte of data across a huge pipe.