Army Chaplains Corps: Serving 'God and Country' for 234 years with 25,000 chaplains
July 9, 2009
<B> FORT STEWART, Ga. </B> Barely six weeks after the Continental Congress established the Army and the first branch of the Army, the infantry, a second branch was established upon orders by General George Washington, according to Chaplain (Col.) Gary Moore, Fort Stewart's installation chaplain.
The Army Chaplains Corps was established July 29, 1775 and for 234 years, approximately 25,000 Army Chaplains have served more than 25 million Soldiers and family Members, living up to the motto on its branch insignia, "Pro Deo et Patria," which means, "For God and Country."
"George Washington said, 'We need chaplains,'" said Chap. Moore, who hails from the mountain country of eastern Tennessee. "Washington was concerned about both the morale and morals of the Soldiers and believed the Army should provide paid religious leaders to meet Soldiers' spiritual needs."
Chap. Moore noted that Army chaplains have served in more than 270 major wars with six chaplains receiving the Medal of Honor and 27 receiving the Distinguished Service Cross.
He emphasized, however, that since July 1929, Army chaplains are not trained as combat Soldiers.
"We don't even train on weapons now," he said. "According to FM 27-10, The Law of Land Warfare, chaplains come under Category IV of the Geneva Convention. If captured, we're supposed to be treated as detainees. That way, we can be allowed to minister to the spiritual needs of prisoners of war."
Chap. Moore admits this treatment is not always observed by the enemy, but said an enemy's failure to follow the rules of the Geneva Convention has never deterred American forces from doing what's right.
He went on to explain how the mission of the Army Chaplains Corps supplements the Army's overall mission by providing spiritual leadership for the Army Family.
"All leaders care for Soldiers," Chap. Moore said. "Chaplains are leaders too, with a mission to support the commander and serve the Soldier."
General George C. Marshall once said, "The Soldier's heart, the Soldier's spirit and the Soldier's soul are everything. Unless the Soldier's soul sustains him, he cannot be relied on and will fail himself, his commander (and) his country in the end."
According to the Army Chaplaincy Strategic Plan, the three-fold mission of the Army Chaplains Corps helps the Soldier with matters of the heart, spirit and especially the soul: 1) Provide religious support to America's Army across the full spectrum of operation. 2) Assist the commander in ensuring the right of free exercise of religion. 3) Provide spiritual, moral and ethical leadership to the Army.
Chap. Moore began his career as a chaplain in 1986 after serving seven years as a pastor in a Presbyterian, "Yoke-Parrish" church, which simply means, he served two small congregations in eastern Tennessee.
He became interested in becoming a chaplain after taking one of his church members, a high school student, to a recruiter's office.
After receiving the endorsement of his denomination, Chap. Moore was commissioned as an Air Force Reserve chaplain in Columbus, Miss.
Just a few months later, he said he got a call about being an active duty chaplain for the Army.
He has served as a chaplain in Germany, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan as well as a tour with 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, N.C., where he gained the rare distinction of being one of only a few chaplains to earn master parachutist wings.
Chap. Moore said Army Chaplains Assistants, now a separate military occupation specialty (56M), will celebrate their 100 birthday, Dec. 28.
Although many chaplains probably had someone assigned or attached to them to help with administrative and logistic issues, Chap. Moore said the Army didn't establish an official enlisted assistant to chaplains until 1909 with General Orders No. 253.
Despite being part of the chaplaincy, he emphasized the chaplain assistant is a "Soldier first and last."
"(Chaplain assistants) train with and use weapons to provide security for the chaplain," he said. "Though they're not ordained, they are a full-fledged part of the unit ministry team, providing context for the worship area - whether it's for a wedding, funeral, memorial or worship service. They also take up the offering money and list every penny given on an offering control sheet, which is always deposited the day of or day after it's collected."
Because the chaplain assistant is a Soldier first, his combat record is impressive. Chap. Moore mentioned volunteer chaplain assistant Calvin Titus, who earned the Medal of Honor in 1902 for his heroism during the Boxer Rebellion in China.
Corporal Greene Strother, chaplain assistant with the 11th Inf. Regt., earned the Distinguished Service Cross for capturing 14 prisoners and their machine guns in Vieville, France in 1918.
Eight chaplain assistants gave their lives during the Vietnam War.
Army chaplains and chaplain assistants currently serve in over 120 foreign countries.
Chap. Moore said Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield Soldiers and their Families are welcome to join in celebrations at installation chapels as the Army Chaplains Corps looks forward to its 234th birthday later this month and chaplain assistants look forward to their 100th birthday in December.
He assures Stewart-Hunter Soldiers and Family Members their chaplains and chaplain assistants will continue to serve God and country as they serve this community.