Chaplains answer call to serve Soldiers
September 16, 2009
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- I am hard pressed to find the right words to describe the Army chaplaincy without repeating accolades that undoubtedly have been voiced many times in the last couple of hundred years of the Army Chaplain Corps' existence.
That's correct. The Army Chaplain Corps is 234 years old and, coincidentally, chaplain assistants are celebrating their 100th year of existence this year.
I could not even imagine our Army without the support of our religious and spiritual leaders and ministry teams. They always seem to be there, whenever and wherever we need them. From stateside posts to remote locations downrange, from service schools to military hospitals, chaplains and their assistants are always present with their Soldiers to provide religious and spiritual support.
Currently, more than 2,700 chaplains are serving the Army, representing more than 130 religious organizations. More than 1,000 chaplains and their assistants are deployed in support of operations around the globe. Here on Fort Jackson, the numbers are equally as impressive. There are 25 chaplains and chaplain assistants assigned to provide religious support to Fort Jackson, with a primary purpose of ensuring the religious freedom of Soldiers by providing religious services, programs and activities.
The chaplains and chaplain assistants do this exceptionally well on Fort Jackson. The 25 unit ministry teams provide 37 various worship services each week, in seven chapels, and other classrooms and auditoriums across post. It is worthy to note that Fort Jackson has also some of the highest weekly attendance numbers in the Army. Attendance ranges between 4,000 and 7,000.
One service alone in the Solomon Center had more than 4,000 worshippers in attendance. That is huge, by any standards. What transcends far beyond all of the pulpits is the fact that chaplains are Soldiers. They understand us because they experience the same hardships, difficulties and dangers that we do.
Nearly all of our chaplains on post have been downrange. Some of them have been deployed to combat areas more than once. Fifty percent have prior military experience. One is a retired command sergeant major. One is a former drill sergeant. Two were senior NCOs. One was a Ranger company commander. Another was a signal officer, and another an armor officer. Two are West Point grads ... and the diverseness goes on. The empathy and diversity allow chaplains to relate to other Soldiers in a very special way. The fact that chaplains "have been there," so to speak, helps them provide effective counseling, advice and care for those Soldiers experiencing problems.
Our chaplains understand Soldiers, and they understand the Army. Our chaplains are perfect for providing counseling and ministry to the Soldiers in training and the cadre who train those Soldiers. They know what the cadre and their families have been through and they understand exactly what these Soldiers will face. In the nearly eight years of combat in which we have been involved, our Soldiers have felt the stress. It is no secret that a growing number of Soldiers are dealing with mental and emotional issues, and there is a suicide rate that has each and every Army family member deeply concerned.
Our chaplains have stepped up their effort to mitigate these issues. They are working hard with the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program to supply products to increase our spiritual fitness. They are answering their call, the same call that has been answered for 234 years, serving as spiritual and religious leaders for 25 million Soldiers and their families. Could I add more praise for our spiritual caregivers'
Absolutely. But I think you already get the picture.