Thursday, March 26, 2009


The US Army is a Southern, Christian organization. The South's real revenge after the Civil War was the infiltration and conquest of America's armed forces. Food, jargon, and training sites in the Army are overwhelmingly southern in nature, and the Chaplain corps displays an evangelical zeal straight out of an old-time revival tent.

Chaplains play an odd role in the US Army. I'm ignorant of the history of Army chaplains, but I do know this: they don't carry weapons. Every Battalion has one, who is an officer, along with an enlisted "chaplain's assistant". In fact, "Chaplain's Assistant" is one of those great jobs in the Army that gives on-the-job pastoral training, followed by a free seminary education thanks to the G.I. Bill.

I would call a chaplain a "morale officer" first and foremost. Problems at home? Talk to the chaplain. He can recommend reduced duty, offer counseling, even act on a soldier's behalf for transfer to another unit. Spiritual crisis? Motivational crisis? Talk to the chaplain. Suicide awareness training? Chaplain takes the lead. Sunday services, Friday Bible Study? The chaplain runs those, too.

In a theater of war (or sort-of-but-not-really-war-anymore, like we have in Iraq), the Chaplain might get tasked with putting on a movie night, or organizing a horseshoe contest (that Southern thing again). The chaplain of my current Battalion was assigned the delicate task of reaching out to the Chaldean Christian community in Kirkuk, to try and facilitate the filling of two vacant seats on the City Council - seats that are reserved for Chaldean Christians. (The Kirkuk City Council has a quota system: x number of seats for Kurds, y number of seats for Arabs, z number of seats for Turkomen, and 4 seats for Christians. Can you imagine a system like that in the US?)

Every once in a while, I read an article in Stars and Stripes about a Muslim chaplain (scary!) or a Jewish one (in New York or Florida, maybe?) but in my 6 1/2 years in the Army, I have never come across either. I've mostly met Baptists, to be honest. The Air Force has a Catholic chaplain who does mass over on the other size of Camp Warrior, and I met a Lutheran one during my time at Ft. Bragg.

Where was I going with this all this? Oh yes! My mom's bible-study pals read my blog, and this is a tip-of-the-patrol-cap to them.

Maybe it's the "service" mindset, or some innate openness to the Lord that resonates with these people, but I often find myself hanging out with the chaplains. 1) They are easy to talk to - their job is to build rapport with the soldiers and be sensitive to their mindsets. And hey - that's my job too, except with the Iraqis! 2) They have a BBQ budget, and hanging with them is the only way to score a steak or burger that hasn't been overcooked into A1-covered shoe leather 3) They run the church services on Sundays.

I am guilty of planning missions so that I won't miss Sunday service. Although the Army teaches that the "Mission Comes First", it comes in second on Sunday morning.

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