By Sergeant Major Pamela A. Wilson, U.S. Army Installation Management Command Chaplain Sergeant MajorDecember 4, 2014
As the U.S. Army Installation Management Command Chaplain Assistant Sergeant Major, I am proud of all the chaplain assistants supporting our Soldiers, Families and Civilians.
We are celebrating 105 years since the Army officially introduced this unique Military Occupational Specialty (MOS).
The Army officially created the position of chaplain assistant On Dec. 28, 1909,, for the first time authorizing an enlisted Soldier to provide full-time religious support. The War Department's General Order No. 253 simply read, "One enlisted man will be detailed on special duty, by the commanding officer of any organization to which a chaplain is assigned for duty, for the purpose of assisting the chaplain in the performance of his official duties."
Every day, chaplain assistants are responsible for helping Soldiers exercise their constitutional right to practice their faith, whatever it is, wherever they may be. Chaplain assistants do not have an easy MOS. There are no other military occupational specialties in the military blending so many capabilities.
We are leaders. From the beginning, chaplain assistants learn skills that enable them to step into a battalion or installation and perform leadership tasks. Leadership is developed at the United States Army Chaplain Center and School. After graduation and arrival at the first duty station, chaplain assistants quickly integrate into the battalion staff, where they interact with the command sergeant major and other staff sections to coordinate religious support.
The chaplain assistant's job becomes much more important in a combat environment. The chaplain is not allowed to bear arms, so the chaplain assistant, as the other half of the unit ministry team, emerges as a leader by providing force protection for the chaplain. This is a core responsibility of the chaplain assistant.
Every day, the chaplain assistant provides religious support to the unit, assesses its overall morale and provides proper referral, counseling sources and spiritual outlets for the troops. Chaplain assistants deliver variety to the unit ministry team because enlisted personnel tend to be more comfortable approaching another enlisted Soldier with a personal issue. The chaplain assistant, therefore, serves as a unit ministry team multiplier. The chaplain assistant allows troubled Soldiers the option of confiding in someone who can offer understanding while also maintaining the strictest confidence -- as dictated by the charter of privileged communication that all chaplains and chaplain assistants must adhere to.
We are also logisticians. Property and supply acquisition is a normal task. Chaplain assistants account for religious supplies and equipment, ensuring communion wafers, wine and hymnals are on hand, properly stored and presented in respect for each worshipper.
We are accountants and contract managers. Chaplain assistants assigned to some of our garrisons hold the position of fund managers. They manage an annual operating fund of $24 million Army-wide. They receive two weeks of special training for this arduous task. Many of them manage contracts over $500,000.
We are project managers. Chaplain assistants participate in and manage all phases of chapel construction and renovation. I have witnessed chaplain assistants totally remodeling state-of-the-art conference facilities or accounting for property with huge price tags.
We are caregivers. Chaplain assistants serve as master resilience trainers and suicide prevention leaders, and assist in the care of those experiencing trauma in any way. We provide research on world religions, enabling the chaplain to assess military conflicts for the commander.
We are battle staff trained. Brigade chaplain assistants receive specialized training that allows them to work in tactical operations centers at all levels of the command. On installations, we provide world-class religious support to the senior commander. We integrate and coordinate religious support in cooperation with all tenant units.
We are trainers. We help teach Strong Bonds - a unit-based, chaplain-led program to help commanders build individual resiliency by strengthening the Army Family through relationship education and skills training.
Your chaplain assistant, whether assigned to garrison or another unit,is a valued resource and force multiplier for any command. Take the opportunity to thank them for their service to our military and for providing 105 years of religious support to our Army.
Pro Deo et Patria! For God and Country!