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A Passion to Serve: U.S. congressman/Reserve chaplain finds satisfaction in giving back

Congressman Doug Collins represents Georgia’s 9th Congressional District.

Congressman Doug Collins represents Georgia’s 9th Congressional District.

Chaplain (Maj.) Doug Collins has been in the Air Force Reserve since 2001.

Chaplain (Maj.) Doug Collins has been in the Air Force Reserve since 2001.

Citizen Airman/Feb. 2015 -- (Editor's Note: This story is part of a regular series of articles that will highlight the unique capabilities that Air Force Reservists bring to the fight every day. Make sure to check out future issues of the magazine for more Profiles in Leadership.)

Air Force Reserve Chaplain (Maj.) Doug Collins has always had a passion for serving others, and following that passion has led him all the way to the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Collins serves Georgia's 9th Congressional District in Washington, D.C., representing more than 700,000 residents of North Georgia in the nation's capital.

"I've always enjoyed helping out other people," Collins said during a recent phone interview. "I grew up in a household where my father was a Georgia state trooper and my mom provided care services to local senior citizens, so I learned from an early age that there is great satisfaction in giving back."

Collins has combined his passion for serving others with an interest in politics to create a very successful career as a legislator at both the state and national levels. He served three terms in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007 to 2013 before running for the U.S. Congress in 2012. He said his interest in politics really took off while he was attending North Georgia College & State University in the late 1980s, pursuing a bachelor's degree in political science and criminal law. He would go on to earn a master of divinity degree from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1996 and a juris doctor degree from John Marshall Law School in 2007.

"It's an honor to represent the people of the 9th District in Congress," Collins said. "I was born and raised in Gainesville, Georgia, and I love doing everything I can to make life better for the people in my district."

The congressman's desire to help others has extended to his military career as well. In the late 1980s, he served two years in the Navy as a chaplain. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he felt compelled to re-start his military career and joined the Air Force Reserve as a chaplain to support the troops fighting the Global War on Terror. As a member of the Reserve, Collins has served as an individual mobilization augmentee and a unit Reservist assigned to the 94th Airlift Wing at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia.

Currently, he is serving in the Individual Ready Reserve and meets regularly with other Reservists in the D.C. area who are in the same status.

"We have quite a group of Reservists who get together to meet our military requirements," he said. "My military legislative assistant is an Army Ranger, and he keeps me on track."

Collins said one of the highlights of his military career was his deployment to Balad Air Base, Iraq, in 2008. For five months he served as the nighttime flight line chaplain and had a chance to meet and pray with troops who were fighting on the front lines as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"I spent a lot of time at the main hospital at Balad, visiting with our injured service members," Collins said. "As a chaplain, that's what we train for, and that's why we do what we do. It was a humbling experience to offer support to the men and women who were out there putting their lives on the line."

The congressman said serving in the military has definitely helped him be a better legislator.

"There aren't a lot of people in Congress who have military experience," he said. "Having served gives me a real-world understanding of how things actually work in our armed services."

Clearly, faith plays a huge part in Collins' life. Before deciding to make a bid for the Georgia House of Representatives, he was a senior pastor at Chicopee Baptist Church in Gainesville for 11 years. Despite a busy schedule that requires him to split his time between Washington and North Georgia, he is still actively involved in Gainesville's Lakewood Baptist Church.

Family is also an extremely important part of Collins' life. His wife of 27 years, Lisa, is a teacher at Mount Vernon Elementary School in Gainesville. They have three children: Jordan, Copelan and Cameron.

Collins said that time management is definitely one of his greatest challenges.

"Sometimes it doesn't seem like there are enough hours in the day," he said. "When I'm in Washington, there are numerous meetings and appointments, and when I'm back home in Georgia I try to meet with as many of my constituents as I can. A lot of times the people you meet with are disgruntled, and it takes time to work within the system to try and find a solution to their problem."
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n the last Congress, Collins served on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. It definitely takes a lot of coordination to find the time to do everything.

Managing his political and military careers can be tricky, Collins said, but it's definitely doable.

"As a Reservist, you hear a lot of talk about juggling your civilian job, your military job and your family life, but I've always looked at it a little differently," he said. "Family is your foundation. Everything else gets juggled, but not your family. That's the one thing that remains constant."