By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Fort Hood Herald
Journalist Jane Pauley was at Fort Hood last week to interview Capt. Richard Rittmaster, a chaplain in the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, as part of her series, "Your Life Calling Today."
The series airs once a month on NBC's "Today" show, and features men and women 50 and older who "have committed themselves to doing something purposeful with the so-called second stage of their life, and in so doing can inspire others to pursue their dreams," according to information from the network.
Rittmaster, a former airman, turned pastor, turned Army chaplain, was mobilized in January and sent to the brigade from the Minnesota National Guard.
Rittmaster said he's thoroughly enjoyed his time at Fort Hood so far, describing it as "rich."
"Not easy, but rich," he added.
Pauley is a veteran television journalist and Emmy Award winner who worked for the "Today" show and "Dateline NBC" for 25 years. Her latest project is produced in part through support from AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons.
"Every minute, eight Americans turn 50 years old," read information from the organization's website. "As their work lives and personal responsibilities change, more and more of these still-fit, still-energized boomers are thinking, 'What's next?'"
The idea of the series is to make being 50 years "aspirational-making," Pauley said Thursday, during her visit to Fort Hood. The show is less about dreams coming true, but inspiration. It always includes a reality check, she added.
Those featured on the show vary from professionals who quit lucrative, high-stress careers to do anything from knitting to landscaping to making chocolate, Pauley said. It's not only about following hopes and dreams, but helping people realize Americans are better educated and working and living longer. The economy also is affecting this shift, with retirements disappearing, Pauley said.
Rittmaster joined the Air Force in the 1980s and was a crew member on a KC-135 Stratotanker, an aerial refueler. He got out to raise his family, he said.
He thought about becoming a pastor and decided to attend seminary after life in the Air Force.
"It's just something I needed to do," he said.
Rittmaster led a parish for 15 years and in that time earned a master's degree in counseling. Counseling was something he was always good at and enjoyed, but he got burned out on the administrative work and business of running a church, he said.
While serving as a parish pastor, he worked with veterans and knew, when the chance to become an Army chaplain arose, it was the life for him. Rittmaster was 49 when he first put on an Army uniform.
"I just did it," he said. "This is what I'm supposed to do. It's important to me."
Rittmaster deployed in 2009 to Iraq with the 34th Infantry Division. It was an intense, rich time for him, he said. He specializes as a family life chaplain, and worked with soldiers and chaplains all over southern Iraq.
Rittmaster said he got such a sense of accomplishment from his deployment and it was a tremendous opportunity just to be part of it and the soldiers' lives.
Rittmaster was reluctant to participate in "Your Life Calling Today" because he wasn't keen on stepping into the spotlight, he said. He hopes that people see the episode, which is set to air Sept. 13, and learn how important a chaplain is in combat operations and in the Army culture. He also wants people to know that it's never too late to start something one loves to do.
Rittmaster's is the 17th story Pauley has told for the show and the second member of the military featured. The first was a retired general who went on to a successful career in the public school system.
Read more about "Your Life Calling" at www.aarp.org/jane.