Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Islamic chaplain assigned to serve Marines

The tell-tale sign of a Navy chaplain is the shiny gold cross insignia pinned on their left collar, but this chaplain wears a gold crescent emblem.

One of only five Islamic chaplains ever commissioned by the U.S. Navy can be found serving the Marines at Camp Pendleton’s Amphibious Assault Schools Battalion.

In 2004, Lt. j.g. Asif I. Balbale enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the rank of fireman, the equivalent to seaman, and spent three years sailing the seven seas as a machinist mate. He was born in Kuwait but is of Indian decent and became a US citizen in 2005.

“My intention was to come to the US for college and go back to Kuwait, but I reevaluated that decision after nine-11,” said Balbale. “I wanted to do my part to prove that Muslims are not all terrorists.”

He was proud to serve as an enlisted sailor, but had aspirations to do more good with his faith.

In 2007 Balbale entered the Chaplain Candidate Program and became an officer. Since then he has received a Master of Arts degree in Spiritual Care and Pastoral Counseling.

Balbale’s confidence to become an Islamic leader in the military came after meeting the Department of the Navy’s first Muslim chaplain while stationed aboard the USS Boxer.

“The terrorist attacks over the years have cast a negative light on all Muslims,” said Balbale. “I was determined to not let my faith negatively affect my military career.”

So far, Balbale’s time with AAS Battalion has only been a positive experience.

“Surrounding a Marine or sailor with a positive energy is basically the chaplain’s mission,” said Maj. Daniel J. Thomas, executive officer, AAS Battalion. “If there were any reluctance for our Marines to utilize his services, it was because he is new to the unit, not his faith. I’m confident that after getting to know the new chaplain, Marines will be comfortable confiding in him.”

Balbale is off to a good start at the unit. He can often be found interacting with Marines during their daily activities.

“The chaplain’s way of integrating himself with the unit will definitely make him more effective,” said Thomas.

At 21 years old, Chaplain Balbale left the Middle East in pursuit of just an education, but now finds himself using his Islamic faith to proudly serve in the U.S. military, positively influencing Marines.

In addition to being the AAS Battalion’s chaplain, Balbale also holds Islamic services for base residents at noon every Friday at the South Mesa Chapel. For more information, call (760) 725-2929.

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