Retired general officer shares power of prayer

U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville
Published June 11, 2014
Retired Brig. Gen. Rebecca Halstead, center, joins Team Redstone military leaders and their spouses in standing for the invocation during the National Prayer Luncheon on June 9 in The Summit on Redstone Arsenal.

Retired Brig. Gen. Rebecca Halstead, center, joins Team Redstone military leaders and their spouses in standing for the invocation during the National Prayer Luncheon on June 9 in The Summit on Redstone Arsenal.

Huntsville Center workers fellowship with  Soldiers during Team Redstone National Prayer Luncheon..

Huntsville Center workers fellowship with Soldiers during Team Redstone National Prayer Luncheon..

Soldiers and community members gathered for a National Prayer Luncheon on June 9 at The Summit. Retired Brig. Gen. Rebecca Halstead was the keynote speaker for the event with 247 attendees.

The National Prayer Luncheon is held annually to allow Team Redstone Soldiers, civilians, veterans and community leaders to come together to pray for this nation, leaders, Soldiers and their families.

Sgt. 1st Class Trevor Rush, chaplain assistant at the Aviation and Missile Command, helped organize the luncheon. Rush said it takes a lot of effort to plan. Chaplains from various organizations in Team Redstone take the lead to promote unity and boost morale for the entire community. Rush said he’s happy his organization had an opportunity to lead this year’s event.

“The purpose of this event is to strengthen each other in the faith. We are very pleased with the number of attendees today,” he said. “We look forward to doing the same thing next year. It’s an excellent way for us (chaplaincy staff) to bring Team Redstone together. This Army ministry helps to build the faith and purpose of God’s people.”

Staff Sgt. John Bennett, chaplain assistant for 2nd Recruiting Brigade, agreed. Bennett said the event has been around for as long as the Army. It started out as a National Prayer Breakfast and changed over to a prayer luncheon at Redstone in recent years.

Halstead spoke to attendees about the importance of hope, prayer and unity and of her experiences as a military leader in Iraq. Halstead told the audience she is no stranger to prayer. She relied on prayer to get through 27 years of military service as an Army leader, during deployments to Iraq and she needs it in her new role as executive director for her leadership consultancy company, STEADFAST Leadership LLC.

“The thing I like most about this type event is that no one is forced to attend. So those of you who are in attendance today either believe in the power of prayer and faith or are seeking to believe this. You know that prayer has been needed and remains needed in our country. I was blessed to have been born into freedom and have the opportunity to serve. I hope to share with you what has worked for me,” Halstead said.

Halstead is a 1981 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and was the first female graduate of West Point to be promoted to general officer. She went on to become the first female in U.S. history to command in combat at the strategic level. In 2006, she became the first female Chief of Ordnance and commander of the Army’s Ordnance Center and Schools. Halstead was responsible for the leader development and institutional training for the second largest branch in the Army with more than 100,000 members of the Ordnance Corps. She served in Europe as the deputy commander for the 21st Theater Support Command and the chief adviser to the combatant commander for Southern Command.

“I know the power of prayer. I relied heavily on prayer to get me through the tough situations. I prayed for my staff, I prayed for my Soldiers, I prayed for my leaders, I prayed for myself. I trusted God to handle the challenges I faced. My faith has been shaped by the prayers of others,” Halstead said.

Halstead said she knew her destiny early on. She was never terrified about going into battle because she knew God had already prepared her for the journey. She used the Christian Bible passage from Joshua 1:9 and the West Point prayer to gain inner peace, outer strength and a prayer life.

“I knew when my phone rang late at night that there was a chance we’d lost someone in our unit. These times were the hardest for me. But I was a leader and had to keep my composure, provide guidance and help others begin their healing process. How did I manage to be a strong leader? My strength came from God,” Halstead said. “One passage of scripture stayed at the forefront of my prayers – ‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’ The West Point Prayer also challenged me to choose the harder right over the easier wrong.”

Halstead said she has the names of those lost within the units she served in etched on her own military dog tags as a reminder that in the end she had to be accountable to God.

“I never took the prayers for God’s protection for granted. This gave me strength to come up with new prayers for healing. I prayed for our wounded warriors and stood in prayer with my chaplains on a daily basis for the Soldiers and their families. I listened to them and sometimes just held their hands. I challenged them to keep looking up and looking forward,” Halstead said. “Sometimes I didn’t have the words to say a prayer. I’d just sit and think. God can also hear the prayers uttered from our hearts.”

Team Redstone Soldiers and civilians gave special prayers for Soldiers, Team Redstone, our leaders and this nation. The Army Materiel Band ensemble, recording artist Juzang and harpist Clothide Glacomoni provided musical selections during the event.

Employees from organizations around Team Redstone said they were pleased with the event.

“I was impressed with the speaker and the meal,” Willie Wade, of the Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, said. “I’m here with my co-workers at the Corps and I’m glad we decided to attend this event. It’s great that the Soldiers have continued to put on this event. I’m a former Army spouse so I can remember when this event was held as a breakfast. I don’t get a chance to get out to these type events now that my husband has retired. This was a great opportunity for fellowship.”

Halstead challenged the audience to seek the same inner peace she now has by developing a healthy prayer.

“We are the choices we make,” Halstead said. “We need to show our commitment to God by encouraging each other through prayer. Don’t let things like an illness, busy schedule or negative people get in the way of your prayers. You need to be present and available. Keep looking up (to God) and looking forward (to the future). Prayer is a combat multiplier. May each of us contend to pray for each other, our nation and for peace within ourselves. My faith has been shaped by the prayers of others.”