MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Growing up in Texas, Lt. Cmdr. David D. Dinkins never imagined that his faith would lead him to a career.
Better known as Chaplain Dinkins, the 15-year veteran checked in to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit to serve the Marines’ and sailors’ religious needs.
Dinkins, 45, comes to the MEU with a history of serving as chaplain for infantry and special operations units. However before that, he was an enlisted soldier in the Army serving as a paratrooper.
Dinkins began his academics in 1984 and earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from Tarleton State University. He quickly realized that ministry would eventually be his career path.
Continuing his religious education, he earned master’s degrees from Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary, Texas Christian University’s Brite Divinity School, staying true to his native roots.
“I always knew I would end up a chaplain,” said the Ft. Worth, Texas native. “It became apparent as an adult. I just took the slow road getting there because I loved jumping out of airplanes,” added Dinkins with a smile.
After serving six years jumping out of planes, his unit was disbanded, and he decided it was time to pursue his religious calling. When he joined the Navy reserve’s Chaplain Corps all the billets available were with Marine units, which confirmed it was the right fit for him.
“With my degree in agriculture, I was ready to work with animals – or Marines and sailors,” said the Protestant chaplain jokingly.
When asked about his religious calling, he said the feeling is hard to articulate.
“It has proven to be the path for me,” he repeated.
One scripture that stands out to him is: “As the father has sent me, so send I you.”
“We incarnate our fate, we flesh it out,” said Dinkins. “We’re coming on a mission to live out God’s love, so that others can experience it. It’s more than a job for me, it’s my calling.”
Dinkins is a firm believer that his time spent in the Army, as well as his prior service with infantry elements, will help him better guide and mentor the service members of the 15th MEU.
“In my opinion, to be an effective chaplain I needed that experience to relate to grunts,” said Dinkins. “It can certainly be helpful when they seek spiritual guidance from me that I can relate to what they’ve been through.”
When the chaplain isn’t caring for the Marines and sailors of his unit, some of his hobbies include archery, ‘riding bucking horses,’ and spending time with his wife and four-year-old daughter.
The chaplain’s current focus is meeting his new unit’s Marines, sailors and their families.
“I want to make sure that I assist however I can to strengthen their families and marriages now, not next summer when we’re getting ready to deploy,” said Dinkins.
Once the unit has set sail on deployment, Dinkins has plans to get down and dirty with the troops.
“My whole career has been with the ground pounders, and I intend on continuing on that path,” said Dinkins.
However, the chaplain is not a one-man team. He is assisted in his duties by his religious program specialist, or RP.
“I’m very excited to work with Chaplain Dinkins,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Edward S. DeBaun, religious program specialist, 15th MEU. “He is very enthusiastic about his duties and is humorous in his approach. I would say that is the number one asset that a chaplain can bring to a unit,” added the 14-year veteran, and native of Copperopolis, Calif.
Dinkins has already started bringing the enthusiasm to the unit. On Sept. 22, he hosted a Chaplain’s barbeque and he provided lunch for all the members of the 15th MEU. He also plans to host another cookout for the Marines and sailors who live in the barracks.
According to Dinkins, it is a chaplain’s goal to incarnate the message by what we do and to remind people of the Holy.
“It’s crucial I’m with Marines now so that I have that relationship with them later, whether it be in garrison, in the field or in combat,” said Dinkins.
There is one scripture that comes to his mind when he thinks about supporting his troops.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” John 15:13.
Dinkins has taken this scripture to heart as he feels it demonstrates his servitude for the Marines and sailors he serves with.
“I am here to tend to their needs,” he said. “To serve the men and women that are here, to bring God’s grace into their world.”
With as many as 15 years left before he will retire, Dinkins intends to make the most of them.
“I love serving with Marines and sailors. It will be hard to retire and work at a church,” said Dinkins. “They’re going to have to kick me out."