By Sgt. Crystal HudsonMarch 4, 2013
REISTERSTOWN, Md.-Chaplains and assistants from the Maryland Army National Guard, Maryland Air National Guard and Maryland Defense Force met for a three-day conference and annual training at the Weinberg Center on Camp Fretterd Military Reservation, Md., Feb. 25 to 27.
The 12th annual meeting brought together the Maryland Military Department's Chaplain Corps to share ideas, discuss strategies and learn about resources available to service members and their families.
An emphasis was placed on how to best support soldiers and airmen during times of transition and change.
"Now we are faced with reduced resources, and we are moving into a period that some of us have never experienced... that is a garrison force. What that means is a peacetime force," said Maryland Army National Guard Chaplain (Col.) William S. Lee."No matter how the circumstances may change, we are going to need to continue to provide support."
Lee took the role as the leader of the conference and provided the attendees with "the most effective and useful" resources available to them to best meet the needs of service members.
Lee stated that this annual meeting is a great opportunity for the chaplains, old and new, to get to know each other, as well as maintain existing relationships.
"We sustain ourselves together," said Lee. "We are in this together."
The guest speakers included senior military leaders and civilian subject matter experts that specialized in veterans assistance programs and service member resources.
Command Sgt. Maj. Brian S. Sann, Maryland National Guard senior enlisted leader, stressed the importance of chaplains in the military during his remarks at the beginning of the conference.
"Being heroic is always part of the Chaplain corps," said Sann. "You all do far more than any mission statement. The Chaplain Corps covers down on [almost] every program."
The more than 3,000 chaplains currently serving are an invaluable part of the U.S. military said Sann.
"All of us, at some point in time, need someone that we can go to," he said.
The looming federal budget cuts were a concern among speakers and guests of the conference like many people in the Department of Defense.
Chaplain (Brig. Gen.) Charles R. Bailey, deputy chief of chaplains, said everyone is getting ready to slow down.
"The war, if nothing else, has brought us together as one team," he said. "We had to pull together in foreign lands. We are the greatest military force in the world. We have never been better than we are now."
With uncertainty comes stress, and Bailey wanted to advise his audience that now is the time for them to remain strong.
"There has never been a more-needed time for [chaplains] than right now," Bailey said. "We have produced. We have done unbelievable stuff."
Bailey encouraged his fellow chaplains and assistants to continue to provide excellent support to service members.
"We have gone wherever [troops] are," Bailey said. "Great things are expected now. When you have a reputation of being that good, they are going to ask you to do better."
A Maryland National Guard officer was presented with the Order of Chaplain (Capt.) Eugene P. O'Grady Award during a ceremony at the Chaplain Eugene P. O'Grady Chapel at the end of the conference.
Lt. Col. Weedon Gallagher was selected to be the 2013 recipient of the award due to his dedication to his soldiers' spiritual fitness during his time as commander of the 1297th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. The 1297th CSSB was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012.
"I want my soldiers to do well; I want them focused," said Gallagher. "When we are in the fight, I want them focused on fighting. Resiliency helps me get the most out of them when we are in the fight."
"Getting encouragement in your chest is more important than cleaning weapons or fuel for your trucks," he said. "You need to fuel your soldiers."