Written by Staff Sgt. Sierra Fown
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs
Fort Campbell, KY – Soldiers with 1st and 2nd Battalions, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, braved Wednesday’s icy temperatures to participate in a Chaplain’s Challenge.
The challenge included performing physical readiness training, four-man pushups, tire flips and culminated with a tug-of-war battle with Lt. Col. Shawn M. Umbrell, 1st Bn., 502nd Inf. Regt. commander, and Lt. Col. Edwin D. Matthaidess, 2nd Bn., 502nd Inf. Regt. commander, on the front lines of the rope.“The purpose of the Chaplain’s Challenge is to build physical, mental and spiritual toughness,” said 2nd Bn., 502nd Inf. Regt. Chaplain, Capt. Jason A. Spaeder. “Each of the four challenges requires feats of strength, endurance, the ability to work as a team, and make on the spot decisions.”
The central focus of the challenge, however, was the “Value of Life,” which is 101st Airborne Division and Fort Campbell Commander Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky’s initiative to take the focus off suicide prevention and redirect Soldiers’ focus onto the deeper reasons for living.
“It provides tools to give Soldiers something to look forward to instead of attempting to deter [suicide] because of the consequences they leave behind,” said 2nd BCT Brigade Chaplain Maj. Steven D. Bryant.
The challenge cleverly combined “Value of Life” concepts and physical training, while keeping a balance between practical and religious viewpoints.
“Prior to each challenge, the chaplain offered words of wisdom; likening the exercises with spiritual battles or adversities in life,” Spaeder said.
“For instance, the four-man push-up is a task where each participant must bear the physical weight of their teammate in order to conduct the exercise. The chaplain might quote the Bible and say, ‘just like in life we often must bear the weight, or burdens, of others to be successful.’” Additionally, the challenge spared Soldiers from another bout of PowerPoint training – something the chaplains hope will allow the program to resonate with the Soldiers.
“They could use it as a reference point,” Bryant said. “It’s an extremely delicate and uncomfortable subject, and some younger Soldiers might find it hard to directly ask someone if they are thinking of hurting themselves. An event like this opens the door for them to approach it like, ‘hey, remember what we talked about during [physical training] that morning?’”
Spaeder and Bryant hope that the “Value of Life” training will be implemented more often in innovative and entertaining ways like the Chaplain’s Challenge.
“It’s fun,” Spaeder said. “I believe people tend to learn better when they are having fun. This is in no way intended to devalue the importance of the training; rather, it should promote an often overlooked value of life, joy.”
“It was a really unique and entertaining way to give this type of training,” said Jacob Vega, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Bn., 502nd Inf. Regt. “It definitely beats sitting in a classroom while they flip through slides. Plus, I really think it’ll stick with Soldiers.”
In the end, “Strike Force” 2nd Bn., 502nd Inf. Regt., became the first winners of the Chaplain’s Challenge. And with that came something most Soldiers yearn for – bragging rights.