Attendees at the First Army Chaplain Corps OC/T Sustainment Training conference are equipped with the tools to better execute their mission during a session in the Pershing Conference Room of First Army headquarters on Rock Island Arsenal, Ill.
Attendees at the First Army Chaplain Corps OC/T Sustainment Training conference are equipped with the tools to better execute their mission during a session in the Pershing Conference Room of First Army headquarters on Rock Island Arsenal, Ill. (Photo Credit: Warren W. Marlow) VIEW ORIGINAL

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – The First Army Command Chaplain team brought its division and brigade counterparts to First Army headquarters here for observer coach/trainer sustainment training. The purpose was to provide doctrinally-sound, relevant training to First Army Chaplain OC/Ts. This, in turn, will build Total Army Readiness and ensure that high-quality religious support is offered to First Army’s Reserve Component partners at all stages of the mobilization and demobilization processes.

One attendee felt that while having a sense of purpose is crucial, it will mean little if not backed by constructive action. And the conference served to ensure that action is taken. “The end-state is to expand religious support within our formations,” said Sgt. 1st Class Marie Peto, who serves as a 5th Armored Brigade Unit Ministry Team OC/T. “If we do that with intention and we do that with a purpose, I believe the goal will be achieved beyond the standard.”

But, she added, that’s only if systems and processes are understood and executed.

“It’s important to have purpose and intention, but if there are no processes and systems to back them up and deliver them, those purposes and intentions fall to the wayside,” she said. “A key to being a successful OC/T is teaching these processes and systems, applying them, and taking lessons learned from the people you are training so that they can use those same processes and systems.”

First Army OC/Ts work with unit ministry teams during events such as Warfighters, eXportable Combat Training Capability exercises, and Culminating Training Exercises, and the foundations laid during the three-day conference will strengthen that partnership and set OC/T unit ministry teams up for success. The agenda focused on such areas as resource management, systems requirements, and OC/T development.

It was three days well-spent, according to Peto.

“We learned a lot about the history of First Army, about Gen. Pershing and his best practices and priorities,” she said. “He was a man with a purpose and had a lot of intention behind everything that he did. I believe the Chaplain Corps is well-aligned with those two best practices because we have a mission here. The goal is religious support and to teach, train, mentor, and coach the UMTs of these rotating units.”

Peto came to First Army this summer, while other attendees have more OC/T experience and another, Chaplain (Maj.) Matthew Canada, came to the conference even before assuming his duties with the 181st Infantry Brigade. He came to get a jumpstart on his new role, and Canada said the week showed the importance of using First Army’s skills and resources to enable Reserve Component units to succeed.

“The First Army mission is very unique, in dealing with components two and three. Relationships are key in partnering with those components,” he said. “It’s not a game of ‘gotcha,’ but of how can work alongside you and partner with you and prepare you for mobilization and the mission.”

It also comes with a family connection for Canada.

“My daughter is in the Reserve and she’s deployed to Poland,” he said “I’ve talked to her about chaplain support and now it’s become a personal mission because I want to help the chaplains who are going to be helping my daughter.”

Indeed, the Army Chaplain Corps mission is to build Army spiritual readiness to deploy, fight, and win our Nation's wars, by providing reliable and relevant world-class religious support, as a unique element of the Army that is fully engaged across the full spectrum of conflict.

Canada added how impressed he was by the manner in which chaplain teams from First Army headquarters, the divisions, and brigades work together.

“There’s a collaboration and a camaraderie that I haven’t seen before. It’s a team effort. Division West and East, they’re not separated, they’re more joined together and that collaboration is key. I’m excited to learn the art and science of coaching, teaching, and mentoring. The biggest thing I’ll take away is that I’m not isolated and it’s very much a team effort and I’m being supported.”