Wiesbaden gets first 'sacred shelter'
July 8, 2011
WIESBADEN, Germany - Wiesbaden Soldiers got the first look at a new portable “mini chapel” on Wiesbaden Army Airfield June 28.
The easily deployable tent structure, also known as a “sacred shelter” by developers at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center, provides units with a small worship facility that can be set up rapidly in the field.
“This provides a facility for spiritual fitness, whether or not a chaplain is available, in an austere environment,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Andrew Shriver, 421st Multifunctional Medical Battalion chaplain.
Shriver developed several expeditionary portable chapel kits while deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 on his own initiative. These were used in remote locations by engineer Soldiers to help give them an opportunity to worship on their own accord while constructing new Forward Operating Bases.
“Before chaplains had to scavenge materials in many instances,” Shriver said. While ministering to the needs of service members in combat environments or in the field, chaplains often turned to dining facilities, out in the open, other people’s work spaces or whatever quiet place they could find. This often meant delivering critical Red Cross messages or consoling individuals coping with grief in less-than-ideal conditions.
A larger, container-based, portable chapel was developed during deployments to Kosovo, Shriver said, but “at six figures,” the cost and size is prohibitive for most deployed units.
“This mini chapel takes about an hour to put up,” said Shriver, explaining that total cost is about $1,500 for the basic kit and from $3,000 to $4,000 for a fully supplied facility with generator, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. “That’s with different items to help with faith worship” such as books, DvDs and other religious accoutrements.
The interior of the mini chapel is partitioned allowing members of up to three different faith groups to engage in spiritual fitness.
“My command was excited to have a dedicated area to practice spiritual fitness that was portable and affordable,” said Shriver, adding that as one of the developers of this concept, along with Chaplain (Maj.) Steve Austin, Chaplain (Maj.) Robert Stevenson, Sgt. Larry Wesley (chaplain’s assistant) and Mary MacDonald who all work at Natick Army Soldier Systems Center, he was glad to have the chance to be the first to acquire the prototype for his unit. “We’re taking it to Grafenwöhr in July to support the Expert Field Medical Badge competition and then again in the fall for a Certification Exercise with Soldiers from all over Europe.”
“Andrew had a good concept,” said 30th Medical Command Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Peter Brzezinski about Shriver’s initiative while in Afghanistan, and this ideas was built from the group up into a workable system due to the dedication and hard work of the Shelter Directorate of the Army’s Natick Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Massachusetts, to develop these sacred spaces for Soldiers.
“They showcased it at a chaplain’s conference,” said Shriver, “but if word about the concept could be more widely distributed, perhaps more commanders might consider whether it’s something they could tailor to meet their needs " having a dedicated area to practice spiritual fitness.”