By Kenji ThuloweitDecember 22, 2019
Eighth Army chaplains and religious affairs specialists held both a holiday party and a birthday party Dec. 19 at U.S. Army Garrison-Humphreys, South Korea. The birthday party celebrated 110 years of the religious affairs specialist Army career field.
The get together served as a time to unwind before the holidays and pay tribute to those whose mission is to help.
"We are here for a special calling, a vocation if you want to call it that, and that is to take care of people," said Sgt. Maj. James Morris, Eighth Army chief Religious Affairs NCO. "As we pause today to recognize this great (military occupational specialty), I hope that you are reminded that each one of us brings a special purpose to the fight and you enable that purpose. You are the ones that Soldiers lean to and look to say, 'Hey, I've been having a bad day.' And you're there to say, 'Hey, let's talk about it.'"
According to the chaplains in attendance, Eighth Army has the largest collection of chaplains and religious affairs specialists stationed outside of the United States for the Army. About 60 chaplains and 60 religious affairs specialists provide programs and support to multiple religious faith groups within Eighth Army.
"A chaplain can't do it by himself or herself and that's why Army Doctrine says we have a unit ministry team; so religious affairs specialists not only support the chaplain in the logistical requirements of the ministry, they are also another set of eyes and ears for the commander," said Chaplain (Col.) David Bowlus, Eighth Army command chaplain. "As that religious affairs specialist talks to Soldiers, from private to the commander or command sergeant major, they inform and advise leaders on how the organization is doing and they make recommendations for what the organization can do to strengthen it."
Religious affairs specialists, MOS 56M, became an Army career field in December 1909. Formerly called chaplain assistants, religious affairs specialists shape the environment to accomplish the commander's religious support mission by providing technical expertise in religious support operations and the impact of religion on the unit and the mission, according to the Army. They have three core capabilities: integrate religious operations, spiritual readiness, and basic human interaction tasks into the unit mission.
"I make schedules, duty rosters, anything that needs to get planned in the chapel goes through me," said Pvt. Aijiah Jenkins, Pacific Victors Chapel NCOIC, U.S. Army Garrison-Humphreys Chapel Office.
"I am a people person, I love to help people. I grew up with a church so this isn't new to me like planning and helping people and just talking to people about their problems and telling them the right things to do and what I feel is the right thing to do. That's why I went with 56M because it's more of my personality and what I'm used to."
Jenkins, a Meridian, Mississippi native, has been in the Army just 10 months. She graduated Advanced Individual Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, following basic training. She said being a religious affairs specialist is enjoyable because she meets new people every day and has the opportunity to work with and teach children. As far as what it takes to be successful as a religious affairs specialist, she said it's fairly simple.
"If there's something you believe then stand on it," Jenkins said. "I would say that's what it takes to be a 56M, is to be honest with yourself because that makes you honest with people."
Army chaplains and religious affairs specialists are available to Soldiers and family members. Anyone who needs to speak with one needs to simply talk to their chain of command.