Chaplain Corps celebrates 237th birthday
Chaplain (Col.) Dennis Newton, chief of operations of the religious support office, and Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Milton Johnson, deputy installation chaplain, work on a project at the Religious Support Office July 19.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (July 26, 2012) -- The chaplains on Fort Rucker help Soldiers and their Families every day, and the chaplaincy will celebrate the corps' 237th birthday June 27 at 10:30 a.m. in Bldg. 5700. Everyone is invited to join the festivities.

The primary mission of the chaplaincy, listed by the Army as its second oldest corps, is to "take care of the Soldiers who are away from home, whether that be at basic or downrange," said Chaplain (Col.) Dennis Newton, chief of operations of the religious support office and the garrison and U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence chaplain.

"Wherever Soldiers are, we are. The Army takes its pastors with them," he said.

This is Newton's 39th time celebrating the chaplaincy's birthday and he says that he loves his job working one on one with Soldiers or Family members that need his assistance.

"We help Soldiers by being there for them. We are a part of their weekly lives," he added.

Assigned at the battalion level, Newton believes chaplains "are the first level of response."

"We are able to view [Soldiers] constantly and are able to pick up on things much earlier simply because we are there. The more [chaplains] go around with [their] Soldiers, really the less counseling [they] do because [they] can catch a problem early on. By being proactive we can help right away," said Newton.

But Newton does not claim that a chaplain can solve all issues that a Family might be dealing with. "Of course, if there is something that a chaplain cannot help with he or she makes a referral to behavior health," but they can help Soldiers become mentally and spiritually fit.

"Behavioral health and psychological help are necessary, but they are removed from the Soldiers. It's sometimes hard for Soldiers to open up to a doctor they've only known for 10 minutes. We can be that bridge for the Soldier," Newton said.

"By doing a needs assessment, the chaplaincy can determine who the Soldiers are and just what they need for help, whether we can directly provide that help or not, with the resources that Fort Rucker provides. We can always send them on the right path so they can get help," Newton said.

The chaplaincy is also involved in helping others besides Soldiers.

"Our second mission is to provide support for the Families who are left behind; the spouses and children that are left dealing with the separation of a loved one," continued Newton.

Newton says he wants to provide fellowship in many forms for everyone who is staying on post while they wait for the return of a parent or spouse.

Fort Rucker has many opportunities for Families and Soldiers to seek fellowship and guidance. A full Catholic parish with a priest is located on post, as well as three Protestant services, which range from multi-cultural contemporary to gospel. There is also a Family life counselor who offers mature, religious, Family-oriented perspective counseling, several youth groups and vacation Bible school.

"We are able to help so many and so well because of our outreach," said Newton, adding that the ministry on post has the largest volunteer group on base.

The multi-cultural aspect of the military is apparent in the chaplaincy, providing for the needs of anyone on post regardless of religious affiliation.

Newton said that getting a Jewish service on post is one of his top priorities.

"I'm really big on helping everybody. And our Soldiers need the opportunity to have access to a synagogue. We want to provide for all peoples, for all spiritual needs, not just the followers of Christianity," Newton said.

The chaplaincy provides support to the Wiregrass by bringing diversity into the leadership of nearby pastors, chaplains, rabbis and priests.

The clergy appreciation day is held by the Fort Rucker chaplaincy once a year. Clergy from around the Wiregrass are invited to participate in the training. Last year's focus was on how to assist military children and teens in ways that are specific to them -- 75 local spiritual advisers took part.

"We help them understand that these youth have traveled sometimes all over the world and how to talk to them and help them in their specific needs. They are much more culturally diverse than say, a child born and raised in this specific area. The experiences these children have are much different. It makes them a little bit different to deal with and clergy have to take this into account."

For more information on the chaplaincy, call the religious support office at 255-2989.

Page last updated Thu July 26th, 2012 at 00:00