Unit Ministry Team
A chaplain (on left) and a chaplain assistant (on right) form a Unit Ministry Team. Together, they provide religious support to Soldiers throughout the Army.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Dec. 23, 2013) -- On Dec. 28, 1909, the Army officially created the position of chaplain assistant, for the first time authorizing a Soldier to provide full-time religious support.

The War Department's General Order No. 253 simply read, "One enlisted man will be detailed on special duty, by the commanding officer of any organization to which a chaplain is assigned for duty, for the purpose of assisting the chaplain in the performance of his official duties."

"I have always valued my chaplain assistants," Chaplain (Col.) Terry Austin, U.S. Army Installation Management Command said. "They have been with me in war and in peace and they have always kept me in the fight and facilitated religious support to our Soldiers. Thank you for 104 years of serving our God and country."

Chaplain assistants are assigned at battalion level along side of a chaplain. They are known doctrinally as the Unit Ministry Team, and in all of their assignments, they serve one deep.

Notable chaplain assistants include Pfc. Calvin P. Titus. In 1902, Titus, the volunteer chaplain assistant of the 14th Infantry, earned the Medal of Honor for actions performed as a corporal during the Boxer Rebellion. While in his Infantry unit, he drew from his family's background in ministry to serve as his chaplain's unofficial assistant.

Future music mogul and founder of Motown Records Berry Gordy was assigned to the 3rd Division Artillery in Korea, in 1951, when an opening was announced for a chaplain's assistant. His job was to play the organ and drive the chaplain to the front lines to give services to the troops fighting there.

Today, 314 chaplain assistants, serving in military occupational specialty 56M, support 75 installations across the globe.

Through the chaplain assistant corps, installations are equipped with non-commissioned officers who bring a wealth of experience to the mission. Installation Management Command's chaplain assistants have served at Army commands, Army service component commands, brigade combat teams, maneuver battalions, warrior transition units, and as recruiters, drill sergeants, proponent non-commissioned officers and service school instructors.

Regardless of place of assignment, chaplain assistants have historically helped the installation mission by covering worship services and activities.

Today, chaplain assistants assigned to Installation Management Command come with an understanding of the installation mission because they have "been there, done that" in support of tenant units. They understand what should happen and know firsthand how to help their command chaplains at 75 installations synchronize religious support.

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NOTE: This article was originally published by the Fort Campbell Courier, Dec. 19, 2013. It was reprinted with the permission of the author, Sgt. Maj. Pamela Wilson, IMCOM chaplain assistant sergeant major.

Page last updated Tue December 24th, 2013 at 07:51