By Chris Rasmussen, Fort Jackson LeaderMay 9, 2008
The U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School has had numerous homes before coming to Fort Jackson in 1996. And apparently it isn't going anywhere anytime soon as the DoD prepares to relocate Navy and Air Force chaplain schools right next to it.
Religious and military leaders from all branches converged on Fort Jackson Tuesday to take part in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center.
"New construction will blend in to the existing school and form a campus with a cluster courtyard," said Chaplain (Col.) Eric Wester, special projects officer. "Each school will maintain its own command, but will seek opportunities for shared training."
The move to combine all Armed Forces chaplain schools is the result of the Base Realignment and Closure initiative. It mandates Navy and Air Force chaplain schools at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss., and Naval Station Newport, R.I., relocate to Fort Jackson beside the USACHCS to form the combined school. Training for Navy religious program specialists will also be moving from Naval Air Station Meridian.
"Each of the service schools will retain its unique training for its particular needs, and each will have its own school," said Chaplain (Col.) Clarke McGriff, commandant, USACHCS. "But there will also be an economy of effort and expense where, whenever possible, key training that is shared by all of the services will be conducted in an interservice environment."
The $11.6 million project includes construction of a 45,800 square-foot building and features a 300-seat auditorium. The entire center will receive stained glass windows depicting each service. Construction is expected to be completed by September 2009.
The Army Chaplain School, the first of the Armed Forces chaplain schools, was created in 1917 out of a need to adequately train chaplains to staff the large military machine needed to fight the war in Europe. The first session of the school was March 3, 1918, at Fort Monroe, Va. For the second session, the school moved to Camp Zachery Taylor, Ky.
By 1928 there were only 125 chaplains on active duty. The activities of the school were suspended and remained so until another war would demand build up of military might requiring chaplains to minister to forces.
The school was reactivated for Word War II on Feb. 2, 1942, at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind. More than 8,000 chaplains graduated from the school between 1942 and 1945. Its locations have been diverse, ranging from a two-year stint at Harvard University to Fort Slocum, N.Y. Other locations include Camp Henry Knox, Ky.; Fort Wayne, Mich.; Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; Carlisle Barracks, Pa.; Forts Hamilton and Wadsworth, N.Y.; and Fort Monmouth, N.J.
On July 1, 1953, when the Air Force was given responsibility of training its own chaplains, the Air Force Chaplains' Course was established at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and placed under the Officer Basic Military Course. The USAF Chaplain School was established in May 1966 at Maxwell Air Force Base.
The Naval Chaplains School came into existence in February 1942 when large numbers of civilian clergy entered the Navy during World War II. First located at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., the school moved shortly thereafter to the campus of The College of William and Mary, Va. Decommissioned in 1945, it was reactivated in 1951 during the conflict in Korea and reestablished at Newport, R.I.