ALUMNI PROFILE / Master of Divinity
"[Paul] hopes that his research will help soldiers from religious as well as non-religious backgrounds to come to terms with this weight of responsibility by affirming the value of their own lives so that, ultimately, they might renew or find hope in the person and work of Christ."
In March of this year, Paul Berghaus (’05) started a civilian faculty position at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He is the Spiritual Wellness Advisor for the Character Integration Advisory Group (CIAG), a new organization at the Academy created by the Superintendent to better coordinate the character development of cadets across the Academy’s academic, military, and physical education and training programs. In his annual report to Congress, Lieutenant General Darryl A. Williams described his vision for the new team that Paul recently joined: “I have elevated the character development program and character integration to my level of command through the creation of a Character Integration Advisory Group (CIAG). This group is comprised of ten newly hired personnel that will integrate character development across our 47-month experience in a deliberate and progressive fashion. Rooted in the Army values and the West Point motto of Duty, Honor, Country, our character development program is predicated on the idea that character is caught through culture, taught through developmental experiences, and sought by inspired individuals.”
This is Paul’s third tour at West Point. His first began in the summer of 1991 when he reported as a new cadet, graduating four years later as a member of the Class of ’95. He returned in 2010 with his wife Mary, and their family, and served for two years as a regimental chaplain and a pastor at Cadet Chapel. Paul reflects on his history at the Academy by saying, “I wasn’t admitted the first time I applied to West Point, but by God’s grace I made it in when I applied again a year later. So, receiving an offer to serve here for a third time was a tremendous blessing and seemed like a perfect fit given my vocational and academic background since graduating from my rockbound highland home over twenty-five years ago.”
Paul returns to West Point while finishing a doctoral program in philosophy at Georgetown University where his research has recently focused on soldiers’ exposure to a certain type of potentially morally injurious event in which their best intentions and actions in combat result in egregious violence and harm. His dissertation develops an alternative framework for explaining such experiences and recovering from them. According to Paul, “Most of the literature addressing this type of event appeals to the quality of an agent’s intentions to relieve them of moral responsibility for its harmful consequences. However, soldiers often find it difficult, if not impossible, to excuse themselves of the grave outcomes of even their very best intentions and actions.” He hopes that his research will help soldiers from religious as well as non-religious backgrounds to come to terms with this weight of responsibility by affirming the value of their own lives so that, ultimately, they might renew or find hope in the person and work of Christ. He is also excited that his new position at West Point provides the opportunity to prepare cadets to sustain themselves, and the soldiers they will lead as commissioned officers, through such tragic circumstances.
As the Spiritual Wellness Advisor for the CIAG, Paul develops initiatives that help cadets be more deliberate in their worldview formation—to better understand what they believe and why they believe it—and consider whether their consistent application of these beliefs could help them meaningfully respond to the adversity and tragedy that are an inevitable aspect of life in this world and, especially of life in the profession of arms. He is also very excited that his faculty position includes a teaching assignment in the Department of English and Philosophy, where he will teach an introductory course in philosophy and ethical reasoning.
Paul and Mary have five children: Paul (13), James (10), John (9), Elizabeth (7), and Margaret (5). They welcome your prayers for their family and their next chapter of service to the cadets, staff, and faculty at West Point. Please let them know if you are ever in the area. Paul can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.