The Chaplain Experience
June 9, 2008
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - No Soldier is immune from the stresses of deployment; from the experienced general to the bright-eyed new private, everyone faces personal challenges.
Chaplains are one source Soldiers can turn to for help. They help counsel Soldiers, travel to forward operating bases to provide support, offer a stress-free worship environment and hold classes to help enrich deployed Soldiers' lives.
"My degree and practicum work has given me a skill set that helps me search for and find underlying problems that lead up to the bigger problems in relationships," said Chaplain (Maj.) Paul Ramsey, 10th Mountain Division family life chaplain. "Many couples do not fight about the real issues bothering them; instead they fight about surface issues, such as communication."
Ramsey has a master's degree in counseling psychology from Tarleton State University-Central Texas in Killeen, Texas, and provides relationship-specific issues advice.
"On a more personal note, I relate to the Soldiers being separated from their loved ones. I'm a husband and father foremost. This is my third deployment away from my family," said Ramsey, whose family resides at Fort Drum, N.Y. "I too have missed - and will miss - many milestone moments with my children."
In his past deployments Ramsey traveled to different FOBs to visit troops. While there, he'd talk to Soldiers about their issues and look for ways to lift their morale.
"I think it is absolutely necessary for chaplains to show a presence outside the wire," Ramsey said. "It shows that we are willing to come to them. We reach out and touch them where they are."
Chaplain (Capt.) Mike Jones counsels Soldiers and helps provide four worship services on Sundays at the Honor Chapel, in Camp Victory. Jones, whose family is at Fort Drum, N.Y., calls himself an extension of Lt. Col. Steven Parker, the 10th Mountain Division's Special Troops Battalion commander.
"I am the ethical and moral voice for the commander of the DSTB as well as a listening ear and an encouraging source for Soldiers," Jones said. "My hope is that Soldiers will see me as friend, not just their chaplain."
Chaplains don't stop working when office hours end, nor do they mind being woken up in the middle of the night to help, said Jones.
Both chaplains work on setting up two- to four-day retreats at the Freedom Rest Center in Baghdad. During the retreat, Soldiers lodge in bunk-style rooms and can enjoy a swimming pool, post exchange, movie theater and other amenities.
"As we get more information and dates set for these trips, we will put out the information to unit commanders to pass down to their troops," Ramsey said. "The final say is up to unit commanders on who gets to go, but all Soldiers are encouraged to volunteer