By Ms. Kim Gillespie (USASAC)August 10, 2016
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama - Chaplain (Col.) Robert Nay arrived at the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command just in time to help celebrate the 241st birthday of the Army Chaplaincy on July 29 at Redstone Arsenal. There he met other Team Redstone chaplains and chaplain assistants, and he's already scheduled to lead the next chaplains' monthly training in August.
Nay was asked to lead the training because he has some good experiences to share. He is coming from U.S. Army Japan and I Corps (Forward) where he was able to make a difference assisting the Japan Ground Self Defense Force using the Army's Ready and Resilient Campaign.
"I was able to help the Japan Ground Self Defense Force reduce their suicide rate by 20 percent," he explained. This kind of cross-cultural partnership and relationship building is also the type of background that prepares him to work at USASAC, which supports security assistance and foreign military sales with more than 153 international partners.
Most importantly, Nay thinks the absolute confidentiality that is assured by the chaplaincy makes them a safe haven for Soldiers to truly be themselves and express their doubts and frustrations.
"My success at reducing suicides with the Japanese military had a lot to do with trust and friendships. They were impressed with the confidentiality I offered. The Japanese military do not have a chaplaincy, so this was a new experience for them," he said.
Nay comes to USASAC with 29 years of Army active and Reserve duty, first enlisting as a chaplain's assistant. He later received a bachelor's in history, and during his chaplain candidacy he graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with a master of divinity degree. After being commissioned in the Chaplain Corps, he served in chaplain positions at the battalion and brigade levels, and as an observer/controller/trainer. His assignments crossed the country from Alaska to Fort Irwin, California, and Fort Lee, Virginia.
His deployments have also provided a variety of cultural experiences, having supported Operation Sea Signal in Cuba, United Nations Mission Able Sentry in Macedonia, Operation Bright Star in Egypt and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"I spent 16 months deployed with the 172nd Stryker Brigade," he noted. And this is the type of assignment that he cites as giving him a sense of accomplishment. "Supporting the command and Soldiers during a very long deployment.
"We had Soldiers who redeployed after 12 months and were told to come back to Iraq and serve an additional four months," he said.
Nay believes the biggest challenge he faces are preconceived notions about his profession.
"People want to put the chaplaincy into a box," he explained. Whether it is because they feel threatened or insecure, Nay said he is there to provide them the tools to help them cope. He strongly promotes his pastoral identity as a chaplain and the Army's Ready and Resilient campaign, and hopes to build bilateral relationships on both the personal and command levels during his time at USASAC.
Nay was not familiar with USASAC before his assignment, but he was familiar with Redstone Arsenal. In addition to his bachelor's in history, he also completed a master's in military art and science with an emphasis in history at the Command and General Staff College. One of his publications is titled "Chaplain's Equipment in the ETO (European Theater of Operations)."
"I love history, and one aspect of the history of the chaplaincy is storage of prepositioned stock, which was done here at Redstone," he said.
In addition to his love of history, Nay is also a culinary expert. He hopes to barbecue for his new command and provide his "Holy Smokes" barbecue. And he is looking forward to enjoying the Southern hospitality with his wife, a North Carolina native.