Military Chaplains Serve, Suffer, Innovate

A few recent articles highlight the service of US military chaplains around the globe, doing far more than the stereotypical Sunday morning chapel service:

As the Army begins to open certain career fields to women, chaplains are affected:  The 101st Airborne just received its first female chaplain in Chaplain (Capt) Delana Small.  In so doing, she became a part of the “legendary Band of Brothers.”  Her assignment was a result of the Department of Defense “Women in the Service Review.”  The DoD article is full of praise for the new chaplain.

In Africa, US chaplains met with their military counterparts from nine East African nations for the “third annual…African Military Chaplain Conference” in Djibouti.

While Africa isn’t in the news too much, save a few isolated mentions, it is noteworthy that US military chaplains are engaging at the rate they have.

Another article covers the touching, yet surprising, story of the service of military chaplains at Arlington National Cemetery:

Led by senior chaplains Air Force Col. Charles Cornelisse, Army Lt. Col. Thomas Helms and Navy Lt. Johnathan Bush, the chaplains, along with their chaplain assistants, team up to ensure they not only meet the religious wishes of those laid to rest, but also provide support and comfort to the mourning families and loved ones they left behind…

While they go out of their way to serve each family in whatever way they need, it seems they have little time to do so:

The chaplains…conduct about 25-30 funerals a day…They conduct Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish funeral services, using active duty, Reserve, Guard and contract clergy. Families also have the option to bring their own clergy and the chaplains provide support to them as well. ..

Bush noted that Protestant services in the chapel are limited to 20 minutes and Roman Catholic services are limited to 30 minutes, while graveside committals for the chaplain are five to seven minutes.

At one point, aspects of the services provided at Arlington were protested by atheists, though the protests gained little attention.  (Perpetually-offended atheist Jason Torpy still wants Arlington’s Argonne cross torn out, though.)

A Marine press release notes that chaplains “provide more than religious outlook” as it covers their organization of community service events in the local area.  Marines and Sailors visit orphanages, schools, day care, and other similar activities.

A chaplain from the North Carolina National Guard has an interesting technique for serving the spiritual needs of soldiers in a high operations tempo:

[Chaplain (Capt) Kevin] Winemiller promotes his “30-minute island” services. Soldiers have 30 minutes for church, he says. The services are condensed so that soldiers are able to attend, without missing vital pieces of their workday, but still able to get away and spend time worshiping with their comrades.

“I call [the 30-minute island] a home away from home. They can forget about rank, forget about the fact that they’re in uniform and they’re on duty,” Winemiller said. “For 30 minutes, let’s go to church, let’s read the scriptures, let’s pray together, let’s sing together and let’s just have a message from God’s word.”

One comment

  • Hard for me to be enthusiastic about the first female chaplain anywhere.

    I think considering attrition rates for females at the senior O-3 and E-5 levels that integration of women in combat has not necessarily been a great personnel investment for DoD. Men attrit at much lower rates. Certainly has not improved combat readiness or effectiveness, and if anything has negatively impacted both.

    Although some Christian denominations admit females as pastors, I don’t believe that is consistent with Biblican scripture. I know other sincere Christians disagree about this. But if I personally need to see a chaplain, it is very unlikely that I’d utilize the services of a female. As a leader, I’d recognize that a female chaplain is very likely to be of limited effectiveness with my troops for reasons that are not her fault, but are inherent in the way God created us — as male and female. I know this is theological and not policy, but it is my sincere belief.

    So this is a sort of two-fer for me.