By Sgt. Brad MinceyJuly 24, 2017
COLUMBIA, S.C. - For more than 240 years, the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps has attended to the faith and spiritual needs of the American Soldier and their families.
Chaplains fulfill a multitude of duties - advise leaders and commanders on Soldier issues and morale, ensure Soldier's religious rights are upheld, perform religious activities, and provide support for Soldiers and their families. Chaplains provide services for nearly 140 religions, as well as support for the non-religious.
"One of the missions chaplains perform that other leaders can't, is that we have the freedom to speak religiously to the Soldiers," said Chaplain Lt. Col. Roy Butler, South Carolina National Guard Joint Force Headquarters senior chaplain.' "When you have Soldiers performing the missions they do, we can fill the faith piece and we can bolster, support and lift up Soldiers and their families."
For almost two decades, American Soldiers have fought the war against terrorism and the chaplain corps has been right there beside them, providing support to Soldiers overseas, as well as for their families back home.
"I love being in the field and being with the Soldiers," said Butler, who has been a chaplain in the South Carolina National Guard for nearly 20 years. "During deployments, we are combat multipliers. We monitor the morale of the unit and provide support and counseling for the Soldiers while they are away from their friends, families, and churches."
Additionally, chaplains play an integral role in supporting the units, providing counseling and keeping up the morale during any difficult times.
"I've held services in many places while on deployment," said Butler. "I've used bulldozer tracks as an altar to set up and celebrate the sacraments. The hood of a Humvee and mess halls has also served as places of worship in the field."
During Butler's deployment to Afghanistan in 2007, the National Guard lost several Soldiers and one of his most difficult jobs was helping Soldiers deal with the pain and grief of the loss of their friends and comrades in arms.
"We lost seven Soldiers in our command and others throughout other parts of the country," said Butler. "The chaplain's role in that situation is to work with the unit, the command and the service members who worked with those Soldiers. I've seen holy things happen in a C-130 and C-17 aircraft when they set the casket down. That is a powerful moment for many people."
"The old mission of the chaplains was to 'nurture the living, care for the wounded, and honor the dead,'" added Butler. "It still is and that manifests itself in so many ways in the Guard."
Another South Carolina National Guard chaplain who serves is Chaplain Maj. Brandon Candee, with the 1-151st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion (ARB). He became a chaplain candidate in 2010 and chaplain in 2014 and is scheduled to deploy for Operation Resolute Support along with his unit.
"I love Soldiers and I love God, so I thought what better way to put those together than to be a chaplain," said Candee. "In the few months we've been preparing for this deployment I've been able to walk several Soldiers through very difficult times. It is an awesome responsibility, but an awesome gift that I receive from them, as well."
Though Candee was raised a Methodist, he is able and willing to provide and accommodate for all religions.
"I had one Soldier who recently converted to another faith," said Candee. "We were at annual training and he was hesitant to talk to me. I said, I can perform within our faith or provide when it's not. That's our charge as chaplains. I'm here for you."
The Army Chaplain Corps was officially established on July 29, 1775, as part of the Continental Army and will celebrate its 242nd birthday this year. The U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School (USACHCS) is at Fort Jackson, South Carolina and serves as the U.S. Army Chief of Chaplain's institutional training base for Army Chaplains and Chaplain Assistants.
"Our chaplains play such an important role in our military community and have done so throughout our nation's history, dating to the early days of the American Revolution when they provided comfort and inspiration as the colonists defended liberty," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr. the adjutant general for South Carolina. "In combat, military chaplains are there alongside the troops to keep morale high as well as to hold the hands of those in pain, whether physically or emotionally. They are that spiritual connection to inner strength."