By Mr. Melvin Slater (Chaplain Corps)October 24, 2019
Each year, hundreds of Soldiers graduate from the Chaplain Basic Officer Leader Course and go on to assignments around the world to live the call of Army chaplains. A recent CHBOLC graduate, Chap. (1st Lt.) Stephen F. Townsend shared his experience as a new chaplain reporting to his unit in a letter to Chaplain (Maj.) Brian Tung, the CHBOLC course manager, during his class.
Little did I know the place and situation God planned out for me. When I finished CHBOLC this past April, I went straight to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to take my oath as an active duty chaplain. I knew at the time I was deploying within weeks and would have a nice, easy deployment at least in regards to living conditions as dining facilities, gyms and a swimming pool definitely makes a deployment or temporary change of station manageable.
Just before my unit left, we found out our mission was changing and our subordinate units would be spread throughout the area of operation with one or two going to a new location. The move was due to the tension with one of our near peer adversaries. This location is austere. I wasn't in the initial party but arrived later. It is a much different environment than the situation in the original location. We are in Alaska tents, eating MREs or getting a hot meal at the field kitchen and dealing with daily dust storms.
I was tasked to be the only chaplain on the ground here covering elements from multiple units and from active duty, Army Reserve and National Guard. I also get to lead services and Bible studies for our friends from a sister service on the ground with us. It's been awesome to serve these service members as they build up this area for future operations. It's given me the opportunity to build up three different areas for chapel services, acquire materials into a country that is restricting a lot of what we can ship in and daily encourage people on the ground that life is getting better each day.
I write this all to you because I never thought I would end up in this place and be entrusted with all the religious support for these service members. I brief a commander everyday who is not my assigned commander. I stand before a group of leaders giving updates and counseling their Soldiers.
I am regularly invited by our sister services to be a part of their meetings and give encouraging words. The opportunity is beyond what I ever imagined. We had to do a memorial ceremony for a Soldier. His death didn't happen in our location but half of his unit is here. While that unit's chaplain came to do the ceremony, I was able to provide good support and help set up the venue. I believe my confidence to do this task comes from your challenge and leadership at CHBOLC capstone exercise this past spring. You showed me a number of helpful and insightful things to help provide religious support to everyone while successfully briefing commanders and leaders.
You challenged and prepared me for this moment. So that's a lot to write to say thank you for your investment in me and other chaplains who pass through the schoolhouse. I appreciate the deposit you placed in me. Many blessings.
(Editor's Note: Chaplain (1st Lt.) Stephen F. Townsend attended the Chaplain Basic Officer Leader Course 19-001 and graduated on April 11, 2019. Chaplain (Maj.) Brian Tung was the CHBOLC Course Manager during Townsend's time at USACHCS. Other cadre members included Chaplain (Maj.) Matthew Weathers and Chaplain (Maj.) John Ijeoma, Chaplain (Maj.) John Jacobsen, Sgt. 1st Class Santana Darby, Sgt. 1st Class Dannell Bing and Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Nance.)