Chaplain Corps celebrates centennial of chaplain assistants
December 17, 2009
By J.D. Leipold
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 17, 2009) -- Three days after Christmas in 1909, the Army authorized an assistant whose sole purpose would be to allow chaplains to focus on ministering to the spiritual needs of Soldiers and their families throughout the world.
Wednesday the Chaplain Corps celebrated the history of their assistants by paying tribute to the 3,400 men and women who presently serve as chaplain assistants at a ceremony in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes.
Chief of Chaplains Maj. Gen. Douglas Carver hosted the observance, providing an overview of the history of the chaplain assistants, which technically began in 1866. The Army decided Soldiers who could teach common school subjects should be detailed to work with the local chaplain who often doubled up as schoolmaster.
Even though the chaplain assistant wasn't authorized until Dec. 28, 1909, Calvin Pearl Titus, a 20-year-old Army musician, is considered to be the Army's first true chaplain assistant by the Chaplain Corps because his primary job was to assist the chaplain ministering to Soldiers in China.
During the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, Titus took leave of his assistant duties and was the first to scale the 30-foot Peking Wall while under fire. For his gallant and daring conduct, he was awarded the Medal of Honor and was selected to attend West Point.
Today, nearly 400 chaplain assistants are deployed and serve not only as the right-hand of their respective chaplain, they are also the sole combatant member of an Army unit's ministry team.
"The presence of our chaplain assistants, our beloved armor-bearers over the last 100 years, has increased the effectiveness of our ministry to Soldiers as chaplains and to the commanders' religious support mission to their Soldiers exponentially," Carver said.
"The chaplain assistant MOS is 100 years old today, but the reality is, that our Chaplain Corps is 100 times better thanks to the assistance, support and selfless service of the chaplain assistants alongside of us," Carver said.