Chaplain changes lives in Iraq, awarded Bronze Star

31 Mar 2006 | Lance Cpl. Ryan M. Blaich

Cmdr. Alan "Mads" Hansen, Deputy Force Chaplain, II Marine Expeditionary Force, was awarded the Bronze Star, March 30, for his devotion to Marines and sailors in Iraq.

“He worked hard, real hard, to make sure every Marine and sailors’ faith was covered,” said Col. John L. Ledoux, Marine Chief of Staff, II Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD), in his remarks prior to awarding the medal to Hansen.

According to the award citation, the McGill, Nev., native served a year in Iraq. His role as advisor and confidante, to more than 53,000 service members, of all faiths, was instrumental to the success of the Marines and sailors of Camp Fallujah.

Hansen, born on Independence Day in Ely, Nev., enlisted in the Navy in 1976 serving aboard the USS Duluth and the USS Samuel Gompers as a shipman until 1980. He graduated from Wayland Baptist University, in Plainview, Texas, with a Bachelor of Arts in Theology in 1984. Commissioned as a lieutenant junior grade in 1992, Hansen has served all over the world with Marines as chaplain and religious advisor.

In addition to the Bronze Star, Hansen was previously awarded the Navy Commendation Medal, with three stars in lieu of multiple awards, Navy Achievement Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Southwest Asia Medal and the Meritorious Unit Commendation, among others.

Along with deployments to the Middle East, Hansen has been stationed in Naples, Italy, and Fuji, Japan. He began serving with Marines when he was the Midway Park Chapel pastor here in 1997 followed by the School of Infantry East pastor in 1998 and 1999. He’s worked closely with the Corps ever since.

Ledoux introduced Hansen as a “combat multiplier,” and stated that he enriched countless lives on the battlefield.

“I was blessed to go with such a superb group of people,” added Hansen. “It was just incredible. The chapel seated about 1,400 people. It was a very high-tech, very professional church service.”

Many became aware of their spirituality in Iraq and Hansen said this was the greatest part of his deployment.

“There were a lot of lives changed,” Hansen remembered. “There became a definite religious awareness and people wanted to express their faith.”

When Hansen first arrived to Camp Fallujah he assisted the staff and wounded at Fallujah Surgical station. He recalled an instance when medical doctors were tirelessly working to save an insurgent suspected of attacking Marines. Hansen was there, providing moral and ethical inspiration to medical teams who sought guidance on coming to terms with aiding those they considered the enemy.

“I wasn’t there just for the wounded,” Hansen said. “A lot of the time it was the doctors who needed to talk. Nothing could prepare them for what they went through there. It was quite an experience.”

Hansen returned to Camp Lejeune in January, awaiting orders. Until then, his wife, Elizabeth, and their two children live in Jacksonville, Fla.

“I’m glad to be back,” he said with a smile. “I’m honored to receive the Bronze Star, but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the young Marines living in the heat of the desert. They are doing such a wonderful job and they aren’t getting this award.” 

Hansen said he has a passion for working with Marines and hopes to always work close to them.

“I like the green side,” he stated, a term generally used to mean Marines or Navy personnel serving with Marines in operational environments. “Don’t get me wrong, I like going to sea with the blue side, but there is just a strong, heart felt passion for Marines.”