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, March 07, 2006

So what does a chaplain do?

As I have spoken with members of my church over the last few weeks about my upcoming deployment, many have asked about the role of chaplains and what exactly we do. Among other things, they have wondered if we carry weapons, are we required to engage in combat and so on.

I'll be discussing this inevitably once I get deployed, but let me hit on some of the basics of the role of a chaplain:

First, chaplains do NOT carry a weapon. Well, we DO carry the Sword of the Spirit- which is the Word of God, but in an earthly sense we are unarmed. That means we enter a combat zone without a weapon. We do have a chaplain assistant with us (MOS- 56M), who serves as "bodyguard" (among many of their duties)

As far as our role: we serve as a personal staff officer to the commander of a unit. We perform and provide religious support. To perform would include: leading a chapel service, praying with soldiers, leading Bible studies, performing the sacraments, counseling, and other Christian (in my case) activities. The things we are asked to perform can never be outside of our own faith boundaries. For religious needs outside of our own faith, we are asked to provide. For example: if a soldier requested the opportunity to give a confession to a Roman Catholic chaplain, I could not, obviously, perform this role. Thus, my responsibility is to provide the opportunity- which would mean trying to find a Roman Catholic chaplain to come to our unit. The Army is very strict that chaplains will never be asked to perform any religious act that would compromise the chaplain's own faith.

We also serve the role as religious subject matter experts for the Commander of the unit. For example: we might be planning an operation, and the Commander finds out that the operation is going to take place at the same time as an important religious observance, he might ask the chaplain what the implications of proceeding would be in the eyes of the local population. The chaplain should be well versed (or at least somewhat knowledgable) in the religious beliefs or customs of the people in a given theather of operations.

I hope that is a helpful summary. Obviously our jobs as chaplains are more complex than that, but this is a good start.


Blogger Mark true said...

Great insight, Chris. I'm glad to see that you're blogging again and will watch with interest as you get deployed and, of course, keep you and your familyl in our prayers while you're there.

A couple of questions about your role while deployed:

1. As you do your job, are you allowed to evangelize Muslims you come in contact with?

2. How well do you have to understand Islam to provide the guidance to your commander about how local religious activities may effect a mission?

Again, thanks for your insight and sharing.

8:55 AM  

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