By 13th Sustainment Command Expeditionary Public AffairsOctober 30, 2009
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - Chaplain assistants with the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, held a monthly training session at which members participated in role-playing scenarios and exchanged ideas Oct. 28 at the Provider Chapel annex.
Master Sgt. Michael I. Bair, 13th ESC command noncommissioned officer in charge of chaplain assistants, said he provides advice to the command chaplain about issues and provides training for all chaplain assistants.
"My job is to give mentoring and training to all brigade and battalion chaplain assistants," said Bair. "The meetings enable us to provide mentoring time, provide fellowship amongst the chaplain assistants and reinforce their particular skills as a chaplain assistant."
Bair, a Fredericksburg, Va., native, said he enjoys helping people and being a chaplain assistant gives him the opportunity to give back to Soldiers.
"We have a unique opportunity to protect our right of freedom of religion by assuring Soldiers have opportunities to practice their faith," he said.
Spc. Michael P. Robbins, 13th ESC garrison chaplain assistant and a Vincennes, Ind., native, said he oversees the three Army chapels on JBB, making sure services are available to various faiths and managing events at Provider Chapel.
"I coordinate events at the chapel and chapel annex and negotiate time frames for the events, but the worship services take precedence over all the other events and services that we provide," he said.
Robbins, who also previously conducted this training, said the event definitely helps and is a good tool.
"This helps us re-engage the skills that we learned in advanced individual training and allows us to be fresh and more effective," he said.
Bair said the chaplain assistants have a unique job in the Army.
"I started off my Army career being a chaplain's assistant for a light infantry unit that was constantly in the field," he said. "We are like a commander's staff all rolled into one. We provide the logistics, movement and the protection of the chaplain."
Bair said they shape the environment for religious support.
"CAs do a lot of the grunt work so that chaplains can spend more time with Soldiers," he said.
Robbins said chaplain assistants are thrown in a lot of different situations.
"This job has its ups and downs," he said. "It is a wonderful feeling knowing that you have helped someone. However, we also have to deal with other issues such as death or people dying and that is very tough to deal with.
"You have to be flexible. Whether it's helping Soldiers kick down doors to building bridges, we have to be where the troops are and that is our ultimate goal."