A Navy Seal preparing for a parachute jump once provided Col. Jeff Zust a favorite soldier's prayer by saying, "God, I hope this works."
Zust retired Feb. 22 and will spend his final day, March 15, wrapping up his service as a military chaplain after a 33-year campaign, including time as Army and Air Force Reserves chaplain.
"I know this will personally affect me because I love what I do," Zust said. "But it's time for me to go."
Zust grew up in the Denver and Colorado Springs, Colo., area and was affiliated with the Southwest Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He also coached football and wrestling. In 1984, he was ordained at Augustana Lutheran in Denver. For five years he was at a church in Bernadotte, Minn.
He said he became a chaplain because he loves to work with people. He said his military career allowed him to teach ethics and spend time on "unique tours working with simulation trainers."
He earned a bachelor's degree in history from Colorado State University before obtaining three master's degrees. His tours of duty have included Iraq, Korea, the Balkans and Southwest Asia. He's worked with two Medal of Honor recipients, several senior generals and three former joint chiefs of staff.
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His work has had him assigned to numerous posts around the country, the last as command chaplain for First Army at the Rock Island Arsenal. While in the Quad-Cities, Zust and his wife, Chom Pun, were members of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport.
In retirement, the couple plans to spend more time with their five children and six grandchildren. He plans to return to Colorado for a church project in the Denver area and to teach ethics as an adjunct professor for local colleges and universities. Zust also will be an interim minister and pulpit-supply pastor.
For First Army, Zust was basically responsible "for all the religious support activities" coordinated by ministry teams, he said.
First Army is a "multicomponent-sourced, meaning active Army, Army Reserve, Army National Guard organization" of more than 8,000 active and reserve soldiers and Department of the Army civilians, according to information from Zust.
Zust said the mission of the U.S. Army Chaplains Corps was to provide religious support to the Army. Chaplains advise commanders to ensure the "free exercise" rights is upheld for all soldiers, including those who hold no faith.
Chaplains perform religious support activities according to their faith and conscience. They also provide religious support of other faith groups by coordinating with another chaplain or qualified individuals.