By David Poe (Fort Bliss)July 27, 2011
FORT BLISS, Texas -- Soldiers and civilians from Fort Bliss’ Office of the Senior Chaplain, joined by chaplains and chaplains’ assistants from across the installation, and their families, celebrated the 236th anniversary of the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps with a luncheon at the Office of the Senior Chaplain building on main post July 21.
The gathering celebrated the work of the chaplaincy at Fort Bliss while also honoring the approximately 25,000 Army chaplains that have served as religious and spiritual leaders for approximately 25 million Soldiers and their families since 1775.
Chaplain (Col.) Peter Baktis, Fort Bliss’ senior chaplain, said in his opinion the mission of the Chaplain Corps hasn’t changed in more than two centuries of service, but some of the details of that service have evolved.
“We still honor the dead, nurture the living and care for the wounded " that has not changed,” said Baktis, who’s been Fort Bliss senior chaplain for less than a year. “What has changed is the expectation from the command " for us [as chaplains] to really be a part of the team, be staff advisors on religious matters, morals and ethics, and to really help our Soldiers build resiliency so that they’re able to do the mission of multiple deployments and be able to come back as whole people.”
During the event, military religious representatives and many others enjoyed static displays that documented the history of Army chaplains and those who have supported their missions throughout modern history, as well as fellowship that the community is known for. Baktis said he felt the outreach offered by his office and that of the unit chaplains continues to be a success, but they’re always striving to do more.
“This year we’re focusing on two main areas of our ministry for Soldiers " single Soldiers and single parent Soldiers; those are two areas of the ministry which we need to reengage and refocus,” he said. “We’re very engaged with family members and we also want to target out first-time Soldiers to help them build strength and resiliency.”
As chaplains and their assistants from 4th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division deploy overseas, with those from the division’s 3rd Infantry BCT soon follow, the senior chaplain, who has recently returned from deployment, said he was confident in “Highlander” and “Bulldog” chaplain teams’ abilities to perform downrange soon.
“I’m very confident that they’re well trained,” he said. “We’ve had an active training program to help them with skills that they needed and honed in on, skills they hadn’t used for deployment. Our chaplains and chaplain assistants from 3rd and 4th brigades are ready to go and perform their missions.”
Though he hadn’t been at Fort Bliss for the previous 12 months, he said members of the Chaplain Corps here spent its 235th year productively, thanks to the tireless work of his office’s directors of religious education, and also the efforts of chaplain’s assistants throughout the units.
“The chaplain’s assistant is really key to us functioning within the units, especially at the battalion level, because they share more of the lifestyles of the other Soldiers then the chaplain does,” he said. “They’re able to be people Soldiers go to to seek advice and ask questions, and also they’re very instrumental in identifying Soldiers that may be at risk and helping chaplains so that they can do the counseling and referrals that are needed.”
As the lunch hour ended and Soldiers and civilians scattered to continue the work of the day, Baktis said thanks to the work of many, this year’s anniversary celebration was a success and something he hoped honored the work of many in the Army Chaplain Corps.
“They touch the lives of many of our Soldiers, [Department of Army] civilians and their families,” said Baktis. “I want them to walk away being proud to be a part of the Chaplain Corps and knowing that their service counts even if they don’t get a thanks every single day.”