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! :)

Friday, June 02, 2006

So what does a chaplain do?

Some people have asked what the role of a chaplain looks like in the Army. Obviously you think first about the role of a pastor, and that touches on it, but I thought I would elaborate a little using some of our training materials. In our training circular (which is public information), the role of a Unit Ministry Team (UMT) is described like this:

"The mission of the UMT is to provide military religious support (RS) to soldiers, families, and authorized civilians as directed by the commander. To perform this mission, each chaplain fulfills two roles: religious leader and special staff officer- ensuring the following key tasks are completed:
-Religious Support for all faith groups
-Moral leadership
-Emergency religious support
-Provision of professional expertise to the commander on free exercise of religion, morals, morale, and the ethical impact of command decisions
-UMT readiness.
Religious Support actitivies are address in FM 1-05 using the terms "perform" and "provide." Chaplains "perform" the religious support when their actions are in accordance with the tenets or beliefs of their own endorsing faith group. Chaplains "provide" religious support for religious services that they cannot personally perform." Taken from TC 1-05

The last part of that revolves around a question I get asked a lot: do chaplains have to do religious actions for different religions than their own? The answer is emphatically no. I cannot perform a religious action- like leading Islamic worship, or leading mass- that is outside my faith group. First of all, it would infringe on my faith and on my endorsement as a Lutheran chaplain to ask me to do something outside of my own faith, and second, it would disrespect and infringe on the faith of the people of the other religious group.

The Army is good about ensuring that we never do anything that would contradict our faith, as well as trying its hardest to meet the religious needs of all soldiers.

This begins to give an idea of what chaplains do, and in future posts I will elaborate on that a bit.


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