As an Illinois National Guard chaplain, Maj. Gen. Daniel M. Krumrei has counseled soldiers and their family members about preparing for the traumas of war and has helped them learn how to transition from deployment back to normal life.
"When we move folks from the civilian lifestyle to a soldier, their entire context changes," he said. "You have other people telling you where to go, when to sleep, what to do, when to work, where to work. It's a very intense experience. Then you come back home and all the rules have gone away."
In part because of Krumrei's background in working one-on-one with soldiers, he was appointed adjutant general for the Illinois National Guard and director of the Department of Military Affairs, Gov. Pat Quinn's office announced this month.
In his new role, Krumrei, 57, is in charge of state and federal programs like the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund, Survivor Outreach Services and the Illinois State Military Museum. He is also responsible for making sure the 13,000 service members in the Illinois National Guard are ready to respond to emergencies here and abroad.
"General Krumrei has served in the National Guard for more than 35 years and has made it his mission to ensure that our service members get the support they need to be successful in the military and their civilian lives," Quinn said in a statement. "His extensive experience at all levels of the Guard and with people of all faiths will be invaluable as we work to keep the Illinois National Guard the most effective force in the nation."
Krumrei is the first actively serving chaplain to be appointed to the senior office, according to the Illinois National Guard.
In recent years, as the military has battled suicides and post-traumatic stress disorder, the role of chaplain has been vital. In addition to serving soldiers' spiritual needs, chaplains have had to step in and teach soldiers how to manage the stresses of deployments to war zones, as well as train families to help service members, identify the signs of mental or emotional breakdowns and seek professional help.
According to the Illinois National Guard, more than 22,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen have been sent into service during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but only 500 remain deployed.
Many of the returning soldiers need assistance finding jobs, enrolling in school, and getting housing and transportation. In his new role, Krumrei will provide key support.
Krumrei grew up in Wisconsin and joined the National Guard in 1977 when a former colleague encouraged him to become involved, he said. He has served in Oklahoma and Iowa. In 1992, he joined the Illinois Army National Guard as a chaplain.
When Krumrei was deployed overseas during the Persian Gulf War more than 20 years ago, he went without knowing what it meant to be sent into a war zone and then return to regular life, he said.
"When I came home in 1991, we came home on a bus, stood in an armory. The first sergeant looked at us and said, 'See you in three months.' That was it," Krumrei said.
"We are doing a much better job than when I first enlisted," he said. "And we're doing much better then we did when I came home in 1991. My charge is to continue that growth and emphasis."
In addition to his experience with the National Guard, Krumrei graduated from the U.S. Army War College. He earned a master's of divinity from Phillips Theological Seminary and has worked as a senior pastor of the Parkway Christian Church in Springfield for 14 years.
He lives in Springfield with his wife, and they have three adult children.