By By Jeremy WiseDecember 2, 2009
Every Wednesday, the rich smell of pepperoni, cheese and Italian spices from 30 to 40 pizzas wafts through Fort Rucker's Yano Hall.
As 100 Advanced Individual Training students dive into the cheesy and meaty goodness, they learn more about the Bible, allowing them to feed body and soul at the same time.
Starting about two years ago, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment chaplains conducted Wednesday Bible studies for AIT students at 11:30 a.m. Current 1st Bn., 13th Avn. Regt. Chaplain (Capt.) Bruce Wagner enjoys continuing the tradition predecessor Chaplain (Maj.) Everett Franklin began.
"It's a good midweek time to pull together to feed (the) spiritual side of men," he said.
Each week, the chaplain's office orders pizza to provide lunch for the students who opt to participate in the Protestant-themed services. Then Wagner, or a speaker he selects, will share their experiences and some biblical knowledge with the Soldiers. The program last about 20 minutes, Wagner said.
The efforts help young Soldiers adjust to life away from home, Wagner said.
"So many young guys just left their churches at home. It helps to maintain spirituality," he said. "A lot of them come up to me and say, 'The Wednesday Bible study got me through this.'"
Many AIT students agreed with Wagner's assessment about the event affectionately known as "Jesus Pizza."
"It's a nice break from the day. We have some real long days with classes. The days blend together," said Pvt. James Cole of Tunica, Miss. "It encourages people to get in the Bible."
Pvt. Lawrence Sikes of Michigan said it allows him to continue his Family's practice of attending religious services.
Even though the Wednesday Bible study ceases for the Christmas break, students and other Soldiers who stay here have some other opportunities to absorb spiritual food during the holidays.
On Sunday, Director of Religious Education Dr. Nancy Jankoski will lead a drama entitled "Finding Your Place at the Manger" at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. at the Wings Chapel. The drama follows a children's musical.
On Dec. 13, Wings Chapel's contemporary Protestant services combine into one service at 10 a.m. at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum. A fellowship luncheon will follow the service. On Dec. 20 and 27, the meetings will occur at 11 a.m. at the museum.
During the exodus, traditional Protestant services combine into one service at 11 a.m. at the Main Post Chapel.
The Main Post Chapel staff conducts a community-wide candlelight service on Christmas Eve at 6 p.m.
Lt. Col. Claude Crisp, Installation Chaplains Office Operations and Support chief, said these services will be of great benefits to Soldiers who stay here during the break, especially those separated from Families.
"The absence of Family creates a vacuum that can be filled by religious events and chapel Families," Crisp said.
He said some area Families have offered to serve dinner to Soldiers who will not be with their Families during the holidays. If Soldiers would like to participate in one of those dinners, he urges them to contact their unit chaplains or the Religious Operations Office at 255-2989.