The next five months are going to be life changing for Doug Collins.
Collins, a state representative from Gainesville, will graduate from law school next month.
And in September, as a captain in the Air Force Reserve, he’ll be called to active duty in Iraq.
Collins, 41, a chaplain with the 94th Air Wing at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, will go for training in August before deploying to Iraq in September. His tour of duty will continue through the campaign season until the 2009 legislative session in January.
"I have moments when I’m driving that I think about this assignment and where I’m going," said Collins, who joined the Air Force Reserve in 2002 after serving for two years as a Navy chaplain in the mid-1990s.
Collins said he has counseled service members prior to their overseas deployment; now he will be taking his own words to heart.
"Our job is to satisfy all service members freedom of religion, or no religion as the case may be," Collins said.
A father of three, Collins said his children ages 9, 11 and 16 have had many questions about his call to active duty, as has his wife, Lisa. He will be away from his family on Thanksgiving and Christmas, which he admits will not be easy.
The deployment also comes in the middle of Collins’ first bid for re-election. While he has yet to draw an opponent, there are a number of surrogate campaigners who have said they will step up and campaign for him.
Chris Riley, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, said his boss would campaign for Collins.
"The congressman supports Doug Collins 100 percent," Riley said. "He would be pleased to offer his assistance, if asked."
Deal lives in Collins’ House district.
While Collins broke with Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson over the election of former DOT Chairman Mike Evans, a Richardson spokeswoman said the speaker would go to bat for Collins if he draws opposition in the fall.
"Absolutely," said Clelia Davis, Richardson’s communications director.
Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simon’s Island, said he met with Collins and offered his support.
"I met with Doug yesterday and committed to assist his family as well as his constituents with anything they may need in his absence," Keen said. "If a Democrat is foolish enough to run against him, every member of our leadership team and our caucus is ready to campaign on his behalf."
Collins, an ordained Baptist minister, served from 1994 to 2005 as pastor of Chicopee Baptist Church. For the past three years, he has been a law student and will graduate from John Marshall School of Law in Atlanta in May.