By 1st Lt. Henry Chan, 18th Combat Sustainment Support BattalionFebruary 5, 2014
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- As a company of Soldiers take a break from a field exercise in the crisp morning breeze, here, Army Chaplain Capt. Andrew Shulman from the 18th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion wraps leather straps around Sgt. Zachary Gardner's arm and prays.
The Soldiers are performing the Jewish spiritual practice of praying while donning "tefillin."
Jews have strapped these small leather boxes containing parchments of scriptures from the Torah onto their arms and head for centuries. This ritual has often been seen as a sign of faith and remembrance.
Shulman is one of the 12 active duty Jewish chaplains in the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps, and is the only Jewish chaplain stationed in Europe.
For many Jewish-American Soldiers, the opportunity to pray with tefillin while in the field is rare.
"There are only so many of us (Jewish chaplains), sometimes you find (Jewish-American) Soldiers who have lost touch with their faith for a long time, and get to experience some powerful prayers in tough times," said Shulman.
Gardner, an infantryman stationed in U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria under the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command, commented on the tefillin's importance.
"(Praying with tefillin) definitely makes things better. I can connect with a higher power … It's nice that the Army gives me the time (for religious practices), and is very open with religion. It definitely makes the day better."
"Chaplain Shulman comes from a unique background, and a low density of our Soldiers," said Lt. Col John Bretthorst, 18th CSSB commander. "His perspective gives me a different look on things, and listening to his observations helps broaden your mind on how the world functions."
Shulman has also conducted services with numerous supported allied nation Soldiers from the Israeli Defense Force and German army.
"Chaplain Shulman genuinely cares," said Bretthorst, "that ultimately brings strength to the military."