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"I was the only priest those Marines would see for seven months." (Video Interview, 19:58)

   William J. Muhm
Image of William J. Muhm
William Muhm [2009]
War: Iraq War, 2003-2011
Branch: Navy
Unit: 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1 (RCT)
Service Location: Anbar Province, Iraq
Rank: Commander
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William Muhm first enlisted in the Navy out of college. He left the service for a career in accounting but soon heeded a call to enroll in the seminary. A Navy chaplain since 1998, Muhm served in Iraq's Anbar Province from January 2008 to January 2009. He had to cover a huge area of the province and was on the road every week he was deployed. His biggest challenge was avoiding discouragement when the men were too preoccupied to attend Mass. At the time of his interview, Father Muhm was at Annapolis as Catholic Chaplain of the Naval Academy, also dealing with a large work load but under less trying circumstances.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (7 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (50 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (7 items)
Deployment after 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks, in Mediterranean on USS Wasp; stuck to normal deployment schedule; no liberty ports, difficult for crew, because they were confined to ship but weren't deployed into any kind of action. (01:03) To Anbar Province, headquarters in Camp Fallujah; job of battalions to provide oversight and security and transition security to Iraqi police; losses in that battle space dropped from 100 in 2007 to 12 in 2008; he was constantly traveling either in a helicopter or a vehicle; traveling around providing mass during the week, back to his home base on weekends; spent one year on the road and was never IED'ed. (02:12) Biggest challenge not to be discouraged saying mass for small groups; many Marines on duty or sleeping during his visit, so the pool of available men was small to start with. (01:18)
Non-Catholic people coming to him for religious services; drew from KBR contract workers and third country nationals, many of whom were Catholic; as war became less dangerous, people getting complacent and not feeling the need for church. (01:44) Memorial service for 12 killed during deployment under their command; knowing two personally; how they died, saving their fellow Marines; posthumously awarded the Navy Cross; battalion commander killed by suicide bomber during a meeting with local officials. (03:00) Few Marines under his care were subject to combat stress; easy transition coming home; was with unit for only two months after they came home; some divorces, alcohol-related incidents; counseling that did not save any marriages. (01:54)
Needs of midshipmen at Naval Academy compared to enlisted Marines and sailors, duties at Annapolis: marriages (and prep work), baptisms, funerals for alumni. (02:04)  
  
 

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  October 26, 2011
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