Written by Sgt. Duncan Brennan
101st Combat Aviation Brigade
Fort Campbell, KY – Getting soldiers and families ready for deployment is a monumental undertaking. It is a puzzle with an untold number of moving parts. A big component of soldier readiness is spiritual guidance and counseling.
Soldiers and family members seek guidance, counseling and camaraderie at the chaplain’s office, because supply does not keep those things in stock.
“The battalion and brigade chaplains provide single and married soldiers retreats prior to deployment,” said Spc. Andrea Fifer, 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade chaplain assistant. “We also host things like financial workshops and prayer breakfasts to strengthen the individual soldier.”
The chaplaincy provides similar services for single and married soldiers, allowing every individual the opportunity to grow.
“We help strengthen family relationships,” said Maj. Billy Graham, 101st CAB chaplain. “We conduct the ‘Strong Bonds’ retreats for married soldiers and hold events for single soldiers as well. We help single soldiers see what healthy relationships look like.”
These are just a few of the things that are offered through the chaplain’s office. Often, chaplains are on the forefront when soldiers lives take a turn for the worse.
“Some of what the chaplains do is crisis ministry,” said Graham. “We help soldiers through the deaths of loved ones or financial hardship. If we cannot help them, we will connect them to resources that can help.”
Even though the chaplains have a wide array of resources where they can send troops when they are having difficulty with life, it is always been the ministry portion that has been the bread and butter for the chaplain.
“The number one thing I enjoy about being a chaplain is interacting with soldiers,” said Graham. “Talking to soldiers and families and knowing what some of their struggles and joys are, is awesome.”
The chaplain does not work alone. An integral part of the unit ministry team is the chaplain’s assistant.
“The chaplains assistant’s main responsibility is to assist the chaplain in providing ministry to our Soldiers,” said Fifer. “We minister by doing administrative work and talking to junior soldiers who may not come to talk to the chaplain. We can also give the chaplain another perspective from the enlisted side. Our tie to the enlisted side allows NCOs and the chain of command to help the chaplain be more successful helping soldiers.”
“There is always a risk of burn-out,” said Graham. “The same spirit that wants to serve also pushes the chaplain to give all he has to offer leaving him an empty shell. As brigade chaplain, it’s one of my responsibilities to be a chaplain of chaplains. I also encourage all the chaplains to take care of each other.”
Ultimately, the chaplain’s program is based firmly on taking care of soldiers and families.
“By doctrine, we are combat multipliers,” said Graham. “If we are meeting the spiritual needs of soldiers, then they are spiritually fit and ready to face the demands of operations.”
Even though the Army is going through a period of evolution, the chaplain’s mission has changed very little.
“The changing demographics of the Army don’t change the chaplain’s mission,” said Graham. “At the core, we are still ministering to people.”
At the end of the day, the mission of the chaplain is to take care of the soldiers and families that are part of our Army.