Pro Deo Et Patria- An Army Chaplain

I am a chaplain in the US Army, serving in Iraq. I'm keeping a blog to share my thoughts and experiences while deployed. They are my thoughts and they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Army! :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

In God's Strength Only

Today was another interesting day. We received a briefing this morning on ministry to wounded and dying soldiers. It was an important briefing considering half the class will be in Iraq within the year. They/we will face this.

But it was also difficult. They showed a Power Point presentation that one of the chaplains had put together with photos he took in Iraq. It was graphic. In fact, I got back to my room during lunch and had trouble eating. But it's what is happening, and we have to be able to speak to a soldier who is dying, with his face missing, and offer comfort that God is present and will take him home.

I guess in a situation like that you can only pray that God will lift you up, because I know that in my own strength, that type of ministry would be almost impossible.

Monday, August 09, 2004

A Great Weekend

We had a quite a busy weekend! Mary Ann, Wesley and I went to Charleston on Saturday. We explored the old section of the town and had lunch at a seafood restaurant called The Noisy Oyster. After that we headed to the beach, on Isle of Palms. The weather was perfect- about 85 degrees and not as humid as it has been for the past 3 weeks I've been here! In the evening, we returned to Columbia and took side routes to see some of the rural parts of South Carolina. It's a beautiful state, with almost endless pine trees and palm trees. Kind of a strange combination.

Then, on Sunday, we spent the better part of the day at Palmetto Palms, a new waterpark on the post here at Fort Jackson. After sitting out in the sun we took a short drive around Columbia and explored the town.

It's hard to believe I have just a couple days left here. Today (Monday) and tomorrow will be in class, and then on Wednesday I head home after outprocessing in the morning!

Friday, August 06, 2004

Pastoral Care Training

We spent 10 hours yesterday receiving instruction on using the PREP system (Prevention, Relationship Enhancement Program). It's a premarital, and marital counseling program that has been develop with many, many years of research. It is not an Army program, but is used by chaplains in the Army, and we received about $1500 worth of training and material yesterday, for free. We will continue this training today, and, I think, Monday.

That brings me, again, to the subject of pastoral care, or counseling, training. As I add up the hours we spend receiving pastoral care training, it occurs to me that I will end up spending MORE time receiving pastoral care training than I did in seminary (not counting CPE). Typically, a seminary student has, I believe, 2 or 3 classes in pastoral care. I want to say I had three classes. That is about 36 hours of actually classroom instruction. So, a student at seminary might graduate with 72 to 108 hours in actually classroom teaching time for pastoral care. Well, when all is said in done, I will have received about that much in just 3 1/2 weeks here. Some of it is review; some of it is incredibly practical, and will easily enhance my counseling ministry. I'm thankful for that personally, but also know that this is a great side benefit for Church of the Cros as well!

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Family is Here!

Mary Ann and Wesley showed up yesterday! Praise God that they arrived safely. It's nice to have them here. I've got less than a week left, which is amazing; it feels as though I just got here.

The training has continued to be quite interesting. The last two days we have learned "Critical Incident Stress Management" training. In other words, we are learning counseling skills for critical incidents- such as a natural disaster, or an Oklahoma Bombing type situation. It was, once again, intense. The session began with some video- very graphic- of combat in Vietnam, and medical procedure in the field in Vietnam, as well as video from the Oklahoma City bombing moments after it happened. It was hard to watch- especially the kids. But the training is designed to prepared us to do a few different levels of counseling with people involved in these incidents, and it has all been very helpful. We had pastoral counseling classes in seminary, but this supplements and enhances it those classes, taking them to a more applicable level. It was official teaching from the ICISF, so we are now able to get certificates, and continue with more training if we choose.

PT (physical training) was a unique experience this morning...after I got attacked by Fire Ants. I was doing Prone Rows, laying face first on the ground, and all of a sudden it felt like my left arm was on fire (hence the name), and pretty soon I had welts all over my forearm. Fun stuff.

Today, I believe, we begin getting training with PREP- which is a marital enhancement training course, for which we will also be certified. It will be interesting to see how it compares with what I already do with couples.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Big Issues

Today we dealt with more big issues. First off in the morning was a briefing (class) about counseling homosexuals. In the Army you cannot be homosexual and stay in the Army. Obviously we have the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but if it becomes public or one acts on that homosexuality, his or her Army career is over. Personally, I agree with this policy. As Army chaplains, every told to us in counseling is private, including a Soldier's admission of homosexuality. But if they want to come forward, we are to help them leave the Army and do it with respect. They are people, sinners just like us, and we are called to make sure they are not mistreated, even though their lifestyle is incompatible with military service.

We spent the rest of the day talking and learning about how to conduct military funerals. Kind of interesting, but probably not enough to post on here.

One other thing that has come up today, is that I continue to learn about myself. One thing I have seen is that I do have a competitive streak. I saw it today when we ran for PT. We ran a couple of miles, but would stop at places and run sprints. I find myself absolutely compelled to beat whomever I am running against. [which I did :) ] I don't think of myself as competitive with others (I am very competitive with myself), but this reminded me that I do have that competitive streak. I have also seen it in the past in terms of academics and other sports, but PT has helped remind me of it.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

The Legacy of the Army Chaplain Corps

It's been a couple days since I've posted...and it's been busy. The classroom work has really been quite interesting. Much of it has been a sort of review from seminary; for example, we spent a day talking about briefing Commanders on making ethical decisions. The Army has a step-by-step system for making ethical decisions about policies and operations, and the chaplain is the expert on staff for advising the Commander of a unit on these sorts of issues. So, part of the instruction was practical- how to walk through the process. Part of the instruction was more theoretical...looking at the different major ethical systems, such as utilitarian ethics, divine command ethics, deontological ethics, and so on.

We also had our regimental ball on Thursday. This was a formal ball for all of the chaplains at Fort Jackson, including all of us students. What an event it was...the formality, the food, the history. They commemorated the 229th anniversary of the US Army Chaplain Corps. The Chaplaincy is the oldest Corps in the Army; founded in 1775, it actually predates the Declaration of Indepence. The speaker for the event recounted the story of the four Army chaplains on the USS Dorchester in World War 2. They four chaplains, of different faiths, were on a ship that sunk in the north Atlantic. Each of them willingly gave up their life jackets to soldiers who would have otherwise drowned. As the ship sank, the chaplains were last seen with their arms linked, singing hymns. What an incredible legacy!

The rest of my weekend has been more low key. A group of us attended a minor league baseball game here in Columbia last night, and a movie tonight. I've also been working on homework this weekend. It's hard to believe I have only one more full week here, plus a couple days the next week.