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Paul Armstrong began his career as a Navy supply officer. He was then commissioned as a Navy Chaplain. He enjoys writing songs and playing instruments and has been doing so for more than nine years.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Charles Santamaria

What I've Learned: Paul Armstrong

28 Feb 2014 | Lance Cpl. Charles Santamaria

Paul Armstrong began his career as a Navy supply officer. He was then commissioned as a Navy Chaplain. He enjoys writing songs and playing instruments and has been doing so for more than nine years.

I started off my military career as a Navy Reserve supply corps officer to help pay for college. With time, I found that as I worked hard, I was rewarded and it sold me that this was a great organization to be a part of.

I was raised in a home that was impacted by divorce but I worked hard in school, which opened doors for me. Church was an integral part of my life and now as a chaplain.

Growing up, one of my hobbies was music and playing piano, clarinet and trumpet.

When you think about a band, every instrument is unique but it’s only when all those instruments come together that they create a truly full sound. I’d say that carries on, each one of us has a role to play. Whatever your role is, we only function well when everyone’s doing their part like in a band. If one instrument is out of tune it could bring the whole performance down.

When every person does their part and knows their role, it makes a band great just like it makes a military organization great.

I’ve always enjoyed writing. It helps me with my sermons but also my creativity like poetry. It’s definitely one of my hidden talents.
I began a mass e-mail of devotionals while deployed in Afghanistan because there were Marines who couldn’t go to a church service but had access to e-mail. Over time, it just turned into a blog where anyone could look up little excerpts of writing to encourage, inspire, or just give something to think about.

I end up doing more devotional writing because that’s the world that I live in but I would like to get into some more creative writing. I’ll be honest, the only person that gets to enjoy my poetic side is my wife and to everyone else it’s just cheesy and sappy but I know she gets it.

When I reach writers block, it’s always good to walk away from it temporarily. That connects into our day-to-day life. I think we underestimate the value of rest, especially as people in the military where we like to push ourselves real hard.

Sometimes, if we actually take the time to step away momentarily, we find that when we re-engage we’re sharper, more effective and more productive.

When I preach, I look at it as an art form. I craft it in such a way that words are my paint and the paper is my canvas. In the development stage of any sermon I write, I’m able to write the teachings in a way that will connect with people and bring the words to life.

One of the first things I learned in the military was that we don’t rely on just one person and there is a reason behind the regulations and structure we have.

I’ve also learned the value of a leader early on. Understanding the Marines you are put in charge of and knowing the dynamics of how they work together is important and fundamental to be a successful organization. A good leader can be indispensable.

As you move up in the rank structure you realize that it’s not enough to only be good on your own but to develop those who come after. Take what you’ve learned and invest in others through mentorship.

Everyone can contribute. I’ve come to realize that someone can always find a way to help. Never discount anyone.

If we can acknowledge that every single person has value and worth and thus everyone can help, I think it shapes how someone leads and gives a sense of appreciation for each other.

When people feel like they have purpose, I think they truly have a rich and rewarding life.

Our culture tends to focus on being happy. I would argue that the primary focus is to feel like you have meaning and purpose. When people actually feel like they are contributing to a bigger cause than their own, it’s amazing what can be accomplished.

Recognize when a conflict is "right, right." Typically when people reach a conflict they think one is wrong but what I’ve learned is that sometimes both people can be correct from different perspectives without realizing it.

A mistake is a sign that you’re doing something. People who never make a mistake are either doing nothing or not doing anything new.
The safe route was to stay a supply corps officer but I took the risk with no guarantees to become a chaplain, which was my dream.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you go out of your comfort zone and chase your dreams.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms