FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. – Chap. (Capt.) Michael Cerula, the 781st Military Intelligence (MI) Battalion (Cyber) chaplain, and Pfc. Nakoya Washington, the battalion’s religious affairs specialist, were recognized by U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) as the 2020 INSCOM Unit Ministry Team (UMT) of the Year at the 780th MI Brigade annex June 26.
Since 1980, INSCOM has recognized the outstanding Chaplain and Religious Affairs Specialists at both the brigade and battalion levels during INSCOM’s annual UMT training event. According to the INSCOM operations order, which lists the selection criteria, UMTs are instrumental in sustaining the emotional and spiritual well-being of INSCOM Soldiers, Army Civilians, Contractors, and their families through the exercise of a dynamic and influential spiritual leadership to the INSCOM Command Team.
“The 781st MI Battalion literally beat out 40 other UMT members of the years in innovation, as far as providing religious affairs support, augmenting the battalion with funds to help out with Strong Bonds, Resiliency Training, and providing ministries that was customized to meet the needs of the Battalion … they hit the ball out of the ballpark,” said Chaplain (Col.) Rick Cantrell, the INSCOM chaplain. “This UMT is set apart in reaching not only service members, but civilians and contractors, and including them in the process, and that is so critical for UMTS to do. We’re extremely proud of them, job well done.”
The UMT selection criteria included (1) Ministry of Presence: how well the UMT integrated, was accessible, visible and involved in the life of the unit; (2) Programs: what programs the UMT developed, coordinated, and conducted in areas such as spiritual fitness and resiliency training events, leadership, moral and ethical decision making, suicide prevention, stress management, strengthening Soldier and Family relationships, Strong Bonds, Deployment Cycle Support Training, prayer breakfasts/luncheons, worship services, etc.; (3) Community Involvement: how involved was the UMT in the greater military community beyond their organization; (4) Technical and Tactical Proficiency: how the UMT demonstrated proficiency in Soldier Common Tasks and showed proficiency as a chaplain and a religious affairs specialist; and (5) Physical Fitness.
According to Chap. (Maj.) Peter Baek, the chaplain for the 780th MI Brigade (Cyber), the battalion UMTs also had to demonstrate their understanding of the Chaplain Corps history, and the UMT religious affairs specialists were judged on their weapons qualification.
Cerula and Washington were grateful for the recognition, and both spoke of the hard work and privilege it is to serve on a UMT.
“Thank you for this honor. INSCOM is filled with Unit Ministry Teams doing incredible work and I feel humbled our team can serve alongside them. From encouraging Soldiers and Civilians, to providing confidential counsel in moments of great need, this calling has it all!” said Cerula. “I believe every one of us is intrinsically priceless and has a gift to share. I hope you know how truly valuable you are!”