Faces From the Front for November 29, 2010 - Spc. Heather Lane
Current Unit: 27th Engineer Battalion
Current Position: Chaplain Assistant
Current Location: Afghanistan
Hometown: Cedar Park, Texas
Years of Service: 3
Ten months ago Spc. Heather Lane and her husband, Pfc. Joseph Lane said ‘I do’. Following the ceremony, the pair enjoyed three weeks of wedded bliss as Lane wrote thank you notes and goodbye letters, and unpacked wedding gifts and filled her rucksack with her uniform and battle gear.
Now serving as a chaplain assistant in Afghanistan, Lane is playing the critical role of protecting her chaplain from all physical threats, and assisting him in supporting the Soldiers of her unit and keeping morale high.
“My first and most important duty while deployed is the protection of my chaplain,” Lane explained. “A lot of people think that it is easy to be responsible for someone else’s life. Well, it’s not. My chaplain has a beautiful family, two boys, two girls and a very caring and lovely wife. If something was to happen to him and I was not there to protect him, or I just plain and simple failed at my basic Soldiering skills then it is me who has to go and tell his family that I messed up and their daddy won’t be coming home.”
To ensure her success in protecting the chaplain, Lane regularly practices shooting to make certain her skills are sharp and will not fail her in an emergency. Additionally, when Lane and her chaplain travel outside of the base, to accompany their Soldiers on missions, she is diligent about maintaining a close eye on him and remaining nearby at all times.
The pair operates with an understanding of what the Chaplain Corps calls ‘Ministry of Presence,’ believing that it is important for the troops to see and interact with them regularly in order to form a bond of trust.
“We can say all day long that we are here if they need us, but if we don’t get out there with them on missions, or get out to the motor pool and get our hands dirty, then they will not come to us,” Lane said. “With the troops seeing us outside the wire they are more comfortable coming to us since we know what they are going through.”
Whether she is leading the women’s bible study on Thursdays, helping set up for Sunday services, or playing in a softball game, Lane strives to maintain a good level of morale among her Soldiers.
“I arrange movie nights and sports activities for them,” Lane said. “But the most important thing for their morale is just to be there. I have been in this unit since 2007 and these guys know they can trust me and that I will be there when they need me.”
While protecting the chaplain and being there for her Soldiers are hefty responsibilities, Lane’s most difficult charge is honoring her fallen comrades.
“The most painful duty is memorial ceremonies. It’s my job to ensure the memorial is done and done right,” Lane explained. “Although it was an honor to do this for my thirteen fallen brothers, it was a very hard thing to do.”
“If the rest of us can make it home safe then that will be the most rewarding experience; I look forward to the day we step off that plane into the arms of our families,” Lane said.
Lane is scheduled to return home at the end of the year. She and her husband plan to move back to Texas, finish their degrees at Texas A&M, and then be commissioned as officers in the Texas National Guard.