Unit ministry teams from 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, won top honors during the 7th Infantry Division’s Best UMT Competition, March 16 to 17, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
Teams from 1-14 Cavalry Squadron and 1-23 Infantry Battalion came in first and second place, respectively, in the annual competition testing chaplains and religious affairs specialists in their UMT duties and overall strength and skills as U.S. Army Soldiers.
“This competition was probably the best competition we've done,” said Staff Sgt. Kervin Louissaint, religious affairs specialist with 1-14 Cav. “It pushed us to the limit, not just physically but mentally. I’m just glad that the hard work my chaplain and I put in since we came back from NTC has paid off and we’ve seen the reward and seen that 1-2 is the best brigade and we are just gonna stay on top.”
The two-day competition included an Army Combat Fitness Test, land navigation, a 6-mile ruck march, and three tactical religious support critical tasks designed to assess the capabilities and performance of chaplains and religious affairs specialists. The competitors included Unit Ministry Teams from 1-2 SBCT, 2-2 SBCT and 16th Combat Aviation Brigade.
“The competition gave us the opportunity to not only push ourselves physically and mentally but give us a chance to do our job as a chaplain and religious affairs specialist under some stress and pressure,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Bobby Niemtschk, 1-14 Cav. “It’s easy when there isn’t pressure on you, but when you have that pressure to perform, then it’s a little more difficult.”
Niemtschk and Louissaint took the win for 1-2 SBCT and the division overall. Right on their heels, the runner up team, Chaplain Scott Chambers and Pfc. Tori Nelson from 1-23 Inf., almost snagged the win.
“We were highly motivated to beat 2-2 SBCT and 16th CAB, and even to compete within our brigade with the 1-23 UMT,” Louissaint said. “We were pushing ourselves and it was good to see throughout the whole training, throughout the whole competition, 1-23 UMT were right next to us till the very end.”
Chaplain Niemtschk and Staff Sgt. Louissaint are a motivated pair, pushing themselves to complete ruck marches every Saturday morning. They understand their role as a Soldier, but also their role as the religious support for their squadron.
“As a chaplain and a man of faith, it's about my calling,” Niemtschk said. “God has given me a calling to be a chaplain and so I have to push myself hard. If I can’t keep up with my Soldiers, how am I going to be able to minister to them? So, that becomes a great motivating factor for me to simply be able to keep up with my Soldiers to provide the care that they need.”
The competition was close between Chaplain Niemtschk, Staff Sgt. Louissaint, Chaplain Chambers and Pfc. Nelson. One of the judges, Lt. Col. John Paul Smith, 7th Infantry Division’s chaplain, said deciding on the winner was a challenge. The tipping point in the competition for deciding the winner came from an inconspicuous test on Staff Sgt. Louissaint.
“My chaplain had to use the latrine and run out really quick right as the ruck march started,” Louissaint said. “Chaplain Smith said ‘you can go ahead, when your chaplain gets here I’ll go with him,’ and I told him ‘sir that’s my chaplain. We’re a team, we gotta go together, so when he gets back we will step off and just to let you know, sir, we’re still gonna win.’”
Niemtschk and Louissaint were the first unit ministry team to finish the ruck march together. Since chaplains cannot carry a weapon, it is a religious affairs specialist’s job to protect their chaplain and be by their side at all times. Louissaint’s refusal to leave his chaplain behind upholds that duty, keeping the mentality that a Soldier must train as they fight. Although Smith did not mean for the quick conversation to become a test, it proved Louissaint’s responsibility and understanding of his role as a religious affairs specialist.