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Jeff's Afghan Diary: Captain Kirk -- Major Tom
November 8, 2007

      “Captain Kirk” just received his promotion orders, so he can no longer be called “Captain Kirk.”  I’ll have to invent a new nickname for him, now that he’s been promoted to Major – I’ll call him “Major Tom.”  (David Bowie named a song after this character.)

      In the Army, there are usually ceremonies to pin the next rank on a Soldier whenever he or she gets promoted.  The Army (and most other services) calls this a “pinning” or “pinning ceremony.”  Getting your next rank put on your chest or shoulder is called getting “pinned,” and is an important part of the military culture and traditions.

      Getting pinned involves having someone of the same rank or a higher rank than the one you are being promoted to putting the rank device on your chest, collar or shoulder.  This goes for both officers and enlisted.  While being pinned is not necessary (the promotion orders are sufficient), most Soldiers don’t feel like they have “officially” been promoted until they are pinned by one of their superiors.

      Unfortunately for “Major Tom,” he’s the highest-ranking Soldier in Do China right now, so no one can pin him!  He has joked about having a ceremony where he will pin himself, calling it a “self-promote” ceremony.  Of course, he was kidding about this.  He’ll have to put his own device on his uniforms without fanfare, but he’ll still get the higher pay and authority that comes with being promoted to Major, pinning ceremony or not.

      The Army calls the rank of Major and higher ranks “field grade” officers, which gives them more legal authority in jurisprudential matters.  Field grade officers have more authority with Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) matters, and usually are given either staff positions or command of larger sized units.  So we expect “Major Tom” to be moved to a position of greater command, at a level above us here in Do China, sometime in the not-to-distant future.  (In fact, “Major Tom” has told us that when our team leaves to go back home to the US, he will likely be moved to a higher position in another village, where a higher command is located.)

      So congratulations to “Captain Kirk,” who has now become “Major Tom!”

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Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2005).
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion:
Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).

Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.  

For more information about Charles Henderson.