FORT BLISS, Texas - U.S. Army Forces Command Chaplain Col. Rajmund Kopec presented three 1st Armored Division chaplains with the Order of Saint Martin of Tours award during a ceremony Jan. 31.
Religious Affairs Senior Enlisted Advisor Sgt. Maj. Derrick Jarmon joined Kopec in presenting the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps' most prestigious award to three 1AD captains at Center Chapel One.
Chaplain Capt. Timothy Brooks, a native of Anderson, South Carolina, assigned to the 2-501st General Support Aviation Battalion, 1AD Combat Aviation Brigade; Chaplain Capt. Andrew Muilenburg, a native of Redmond, Washington, assigned to the 1-501st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1AD CAB; and Chaplain Capt. Simon Jackson, a native of Shelbyville, Indiana, assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1AD, each received the award.
The basis for the award involved the three chaplains working together to develop a unique tool which assesses morale and helps to advise commands about factors affecting morale.
The Morale Assessment and Advisement Tool (MAAT), equips chaplains and religious affairs specialists, also known as Unit Ministry Teams (UMTs), with a way to advise commands on three primary areas of focus affecting morale: Army values, lines of communication and mission command effectiveness.
Chaplains act as an advisor to the staff and personal advisor to the commander, which requires providing counsel for issues dealing with morals, religion and morale.
With this tool, Chaplains can use the tool as a means to provide internal advisement on decisions to positively impact morale, improve readiness and enhance Soldier and family resiliency.
Chaplains using the MAAT can become more effective advisors, leaders and ministers within the Army.
The origins of the MAAT began in 2017, when then-Assistant Division Chaplain Maj. Samuel Kim led a 1AD initiative to encourage chaplains to come up with a tool that can forecast and assess high risk behavior.
"The person who was in my position, the assistant division chaplain, was just looking for some answers, so these three got together and came up with a morale assessment tool in order to try to figure out...is there something about morale that can help?" said Chaplain Maj. John Scott, current Assistant 1AD Chaplain.
Two years, six project versions and approximately 5,000 surveys later, the current version of the MAAT was born.
Chaplains implemented the MAAT across the division amongst four brigades during the course of a year.
Each battalion that participated in the MAAT saw an average 10% increase in morale during that time.
The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team was the first unit to execute the program across its entire formation.
Soldiers have witnessed commanders take decisive action to address their concerns in real time as a result of the information gleaned from the MAAT and the advisement of the UMTs.
Command teams have increased their understanding of the activities and conditions which positively and negatively affect morale in their organizations. This in turn has empowered them to take actions to improve unit morale, which has resulted in increased discipline, cohesion, and personnel readiness.
The UMTs are also able to provide support through various programs, such as teaching an interactive class on leadership, conducting a compassion fatigue class and team-building activities.
One unique feature that contributes to the success of the MAAT is that UMTs can capitalize on chaplain confidentiality.
Some soldiers may be hesitant to answer honestly in command-issued surveys, however, the MAAT is one survey where confidentiality is guaranteed. "One of the pivotal things that chaplains bring is confidentiality. Soldiers can tell us anything and we can't report that to anyone or divulge that information," said Muilenburg.
Scott views the MAAT as being a great success, not just as a useful tool for the Chaplain Corps, but for the Army community as well.
"When you get an award of this magnitude, it's a recognition that you're really moving the branch forward and making things better for the Soldiers and family members that we serve," said Scott.
As the highest chaplain branch award, The Order of Saint Martin of Tours is reserved solely for individuals who display the character and embody the legacy of Saint Martin of Tours, the patron saint of the Chaplain Corps.
Martin of Tours is best known for the religious experience he encountered while being stationed in Gaul (modern-day France), around A.D. 350. At the time, he was serving as a cavalry soldier for the Roman army while training to undergo baptism.
One harsh winter day while marching down the road with his fellow soldiers, he came across a scantily clad beggar. With nothing to give but the clothes on his back, Martin cut his cloak in two with a slice of his sword and gifted half to the beggar.
The following night, he dreamed of a prophet speaking to him while wearing the half-cloak, leading him to believe that the prophet and the beggar were one and the same. Inspired by the vision, Martin sought to expedite his baptism, which he received at the age of 18.
The part of the cloak he kept became a famous relic, taken into battle by French Kings and preserved in small churches built specially for it called "capellas", which means "little cloak" in Latin.
Over time, these churches eventually lost their association with the cloak and began to be referred to as "chapels". Priests who cared for the cloak were called "cappellanu" and ultimately all priests who served the military were called "cappellani".
The French translation is "chapelains", from which the English word is derived.
In August 2017, the chaplain corps looked to St. Martin and the origin of chaplain history in an effort to recognize extraordinary achievements and service. They established him as their patron saint along with the award in his namesake.
"The Chief of Chaplains, at the time it was Paul Hurley, wanted to find ways to recognize the unique contributions of chaplains and religious affairs specialists to the Army," said Scott. "He wanted a way to have that distinction of people with outstanding service to the Chaplain Corps. We trace our heritage, our 'taking care of soldiers', back to St. Martin and the ripping of that cloak; that's why it is the highest award."
Even being nominated for the award is no small feat. Someone with firsthand knowledge of the nominee's achievements and service must prepare a recommendation packet that must pass through several levels of approval and ultimately reach the Chief of Chaplain's office for final approval.
Even more rare, this annual award is typically given to high-ranking service members. This is the very first time a captain, let alone three of them, have received this award in the 1AD.
"You have to do something above and beyond the call of duty to earn it. It is for a unique contribution, that is bigger than just you, bigger than just your unit." said Scott.
The award ceremony marks the first time that the award has been bestowed on service members from the 1AD at this level.
To be recognized so early on in their careers is an achievement in itself, yet Brooks, Muilenburg and Jackson stay modest about their accomplishments.
"Really, there are no words to describe it, very humbled," said Brooks. "We did not enter into the project expecting any recognition or any awards. We only were seeking to help others...to help our fellow chaplains, religious affairs specialists and NCOs to take care of the Corps, to take care of the Army, Soldiers and families."
Equally humble, Muilenburg stated that he is thrilled to see other units wanting to use the MAAT to improve organizations and help Soldiers and their families.
But in the end, it's all about improving morale and enhancing the operational readiness of the Army.
"Ultimately what we're here to do is to make the Army more ready to go when America is at war," said Muilenburg.
Kopec mirrored their humble sentiments in his remarks during the ceremony where he presented each of them with their medals. He noted that the medal is not for a one-time achievement, but rather a commitment to extraordinary service to the branch.
"It also sets an expectation that you will continue to contribute to the Corps...and to what is needed," said Kopec.
The three Iron Soldier chaplains agree with Kopec, and plan to continue developing the tool to reach their ultimate goal, which is to see it implemented across the whole Army.
The process is already underway, as the Forces Command commanding general and the commanding general of III Corps have both already expressed interest in broader implementation of the MAAT.
"Ideally, I would love to see it adopted Army-wide," said Brooks. "Get it pushed out and made available to every chaplain, every religious affairs specialist and NCO across the Corps as a tool to put in their kit, to be able to use to help soldiers and families."