Kentucky Guard promotes state chaplain

Story by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Lt. Col. Yong Cho, state chaplain for the Kentucky National Guard is promoted to the rank of colonel by his wife Lydia and Brig. Gen. Benjamin Adams III during a ceremony in Frankfort, Ky., Sept. 3, 2014. In addition to Cho’s responsibilities to the Kentucky Guard, he also pastors full-time at his church in Radcliff, Ky. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — It’s not everyday you see a Korean, Southern Baptist pastor in Kentucky. Col. Yong Cho knows this and can laugh about how odd it seems. As the state chaplain for Kentucky’s 8500 Guardsmen, Cho’s work to provide religious support is anything but unusual.

“You don’t find many Korean Southern Baptists,” he said. “But when we moved to Kentucky and I saw all the Southern Baptists churches, I thought I had come home, even if I had never been here before. I am very happy to call Kentucky home and honored to supervise and to provide spiritual leadership for the Kentucky National Guard.”

The 55-year-old Cho was promoted to the rank of colonel during a ceremony in Frankfort, Sept. 3. He has served the Kentucky Guard since 1996 as a traditional (part-time) Guardsmen while pastoring at his church full-time in Racliff, Kentucky and was named state chaplain in October of 2013.

“The military has really helped me to grow spiritually and mature as a preacher.”

Brig. Gen. Benjamin Adams III was on hand to promote Cho and spoke of a chaplain’s vocation as one that demands conviction and commitment.

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Maj. Yong Cho visits with Kentucky Guardsmen in Kuwait in 2006. Cho has served the Kentucky National Guard since 1996, a year after commissioning as a chaplain. (Courtesy photo)

“As the state chaplain, he is going to provide the wisdom and the guidance, both for the chaplains in the state and for our Guardsmen,” said Adams. “He will certainly wear this rank with distinction and honor and will be a great role model for this within our Guard family and for those moving up through the ranks.”

Born in the Republic of Korea, Cho’s father moved his family to the United States in 1979, living in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Georgia before settling in California. It was his father’s recommendation to join the military, to learn the American culture.

After spending time in the Army as an infantryman, stationed in Korea and Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Cho returned to California to work as an engineer in Silicon Valley. It was there that he received his call from God to preach.

Cho found his way back to Kentucky through attendance at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, from which he graduated with a doctorate in philosophy. He then put his experience in the military together with his preaching and re-entered the Army as a chaplain candidate in 1993 with the Army Reserves, commissioning as a chaplain in 1995.

“I humbly accepted God’s calling and have really enjoyed my work with so many families in need and Soldiers with issues.”

In 1996, Cho was recruited by then state chaplain Roger Dill into the Kentucky Guard. Cho remembered Dill describing the Guard as much more close-knit than other components, which appealed to Cho and he happily transferred.

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Maj. Yong Cho with Soldiers of the 2113th Transportation Company during the unit’s pre-mobilzation training at the Wendell H. Ford Training Center in Greenville, Ky., in 2009. (Courtesy photo)

“He told me that the Guard was a family-oriented organization and he promised me that as a National Guard chaplain, I would have more time with Soldiers and the families. He was right.”

“I love the Kentucky National Guard,” said Cho. “They accepted me as a chaplain and as a family member.”

As the state chaplain, Cho is responsible for supervising the religious programs for the Kentucky Guard, evaluating the recruiting and training of the state’s chaplains and chaplain’s assistants, and other matters related to the Kentucky’s Chaplain Corps. He advises the adjutant general on the morale of the Kentucky Guard as well.

“I am the eyes and ears of the morals, ethics and religious matters of the Soldiers and Airmen of the Kentucky National Guard, so I support the religious programs of the state for the adjutant general.”

After more than 20 years of service in the Army, Cho knows he only has so many years left in uniform. He said he would gladly stay for as long as the Kentucky Guard would let him.

Cho and his wife are looking forward to the time when they can spend more time with their church, see more of their children and travel together, but until then, Cho enjoys his role as a religious provider for the Guard.

“A chaplain can really impact a Soldier’s life. we can share the happiness or bitterness and truly try to help them.”