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Staff Sgt. Royd Chambers, a chaplain’s assistant at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center — and a state representative from Iowa — helps offload injured servicemembers Monday at the hospital emergency room in Germany.
Staff Sgt. Royd Chambers, a chaplain’s assistant at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center — and a state representative from Iowa — helps offload injured servicemembers Monday at the hospital emergency room in Germany. (Todd Goodman / U.S. Army)

LANDSTUHL, Germany — When it comes to the military, Iowa state Rep. Royd Chambers has a better command of the topic than most politicians.

That’s because he’s still in the military, serving as a staff sergeant in the Air National Guard.

Chambers returned to his district last week after completing a three-month deployment to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, where he worked as a chaplain assistant. The tour at the hospital, which has treated thousands of casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan, has opened his eyes to what servicemembers go through.

“Folks can be very supportive of the military,” he said, “but if you haven’t been in the military, there is a lack of complete understanding about what kind of situation that is, what kind of lifestyle these people have, what kind of pressures are put on them, what kind of mission they have to perform.”

At a time when few politicians have any military experience on their résumés, Chambers is definitely in the minority.

He is the ultimate public servant. In addition to juggling duties as a state lawmaker and guardsman, the 44-year-old is a full-time high-school teacher. He is married with two children.

The Republican legislator is serving his second term and plans to run for a third next year in District 5, a rural area with about 29,000 people. He joined the Guard five years ago, 17 years after leaving active-duty service to become a teacher. He said returning to the military was “a calling.”

“I was approaching an age in which I either get involved with the military again or I would be too old,” said Chambers, a member of the 185th Air Refueling Wing based in Sioux City, Iowa. “After a lot of thought and prayer and consideration of my family, I went ahead. … It seemed like all the doors opened up for me.”

He volunteered for duty at Landstuhl, where he helped support hundreds of patients — some of them severely wounded in combat.

Army Chaplain (Col.) James Griffith said Chambers’ work as a legislator complemented his job as the office’s patient liaison, and vice versa.

“Hopefully, he’s going back with a much greater appreciation, at least for this one little piece of what we do as well as the overall sacrifice that’s being made on Iraq’s behalf by Americans,” he said.

Chambers said he would, calling the deployment “the most rewarding work that I have ever done.”

One of the first things he plans to do when he gets back is to make sure returning troops are getting the support they need from the state. He also will ensure his constituents know about patient treatment at the hospital.

“I can take away from here the knowledge that our military folks are being well taken care of and that is of great comfort for me as a legislator and as a citizen, but I also hope a great comfort for family members to know that their loved ones are being taken care of when they’re sent here,” he said.

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