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! :)

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Today, the following comment was posted under my comments section:

"The United States is also guilty of psychological operations, according to Physicians for Human Rights. "

The person who left those comments apparently thinks it apt to compare the US with terrorists we are fighting. While I haven't intended for this blog to be a place of political debate (though, I of course touch on some political issues), there are some things I would like to point out to "Anonymous" (the name of the person who posted it).

1) One of the reasons I am in the Army is to ensure we have the freedom to hold any opinion whatsoever. I think people like Cindy Sheehan and Micheal Moore are, well, stupid. But I am willing sacrifice at least a year of my life, or even to give my life so they can be stupid, publicly, without being persecuted. I think your comparison between the tactics of the US and terrorists is foolishly naive. But I'm glad you get to hold to it!

2) The US is not "guilty" of psychological operations. There is nothing illegal about psychological warfare. The question is what sort of psychological warfare is used. For example, dropping food for displaced Afghans (as the US has done) is a sort of psychological warfare- of the positive sort. So, psychological warfare itself is not right or wrong, it just depends on how we define it. Hence, purposely killing chaplains and other non-combatants would seem to be a poor comparion to taking naked pictures of a captured terrorist.

3) The comparison between Abu Ghraib, which is mentioned in the article above, and the tactics of the terrorists is a comparison that will always show the US in a positive light. Why? For these reasons: when we capture enemy combatants, they receive three square meals a day, access to religious services of their liking, as well as free Korans. If an American soldier is captured by Al Qaeda, he or she will be tortured mercilessly, videotaped, and then slowly beheaded in a gruesome manner. Which would you prefer, if you were captured?

Abu Ghraib was a terrible thing. But it is the exception, and not the rule. 99% of the time anyone captured by the US is treated in a very good manner. That is how we are trained (speaking from experience), and that is how we fight. Moreover, if you compare Abu Ghraib to the tactics of the terrorists this is what you get:

Americans in Abu Ghraib did (emphasize the past tense here) the following:
-Made terrorists get naked, scared them with dogs, humilated them and took pictures. The soldiers involved with this are heading to prison.

Terrorists continue (i.e., they are still doing this) to do the following:
-Purposely kill civilians (including women, infants and children) by blowing up car bombs near schools, Mosques and shopping areas; kidnap innocent people, torture and behead them; call for the destruction of the West and of Israel, and so much more. The terrorist who do this are celebrated by the cohorts.

Does it all even compare? No. I remain proud to be an American and a member of the Army.

One last thing: remember that, as Americans, we are free to debate this. When the Taliban were in charge of Afghanistan, do you think they allowed public discussion of their legal tactics (such as killing women who dared go into public showing their face, or dared go to school)? I doubt it!

So, while I strongly disagree with "anonymous" I appreciate living in such a great place where we can debate this. God bless 'ya!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Target: Chaplains

In today's USA Today, information was released indicating that the Islamic insurgents in Iraq have promoted using the tactic of snipers targeting, among others, chaplains and doctors. The goal is to try and demoralize our soldiers by killing chaplains, doctors, and other specialties. The quote from the insurgent training manual said: "Killing doctors and chaplains is suggested as a means of psychological warfare."

This all from the so-called "Religion of Peace?" Hmm. It's hard to believe these terrorist believe they are doing the will of God. (And, to be fair, I believe these terrorist do not represent the majority of Muslims. Most Muslims would likely be ashamed of that tactic, though I cannot speak for them.)

The good news? To date, the Army has not lost a chaplain in this conflict.

Hurricanes and Spiders

I haven't posted much lately because, as I've mentioned, there hasn't been much going on. On Wednesday, I did head down to Gulfport, Biloxi and Pass Christian with some other guys to view the hurricane damage. It was truly unbelievable. There were scores of buildings that were just gone, and, almost a year later, garbage remainds on the beaches. I have included a few pictures. In the picture on the right, you might be able to see that someone spray painted "We are Home!! Will Shoot, No Looting!"

I also should mention that I killed a couple of spiders in my room in one day. Mississippi is home to many poisonous things, from Brown Recluse and Black Widows spiders, to Copperheads, Cottonmouths, various rattlesnakes, and even coral snakes. None of the spiders in my room were the poisonous ones...I don't think.

My week continues to involved 5 and a half hours of training, followed up with long periods of counting the tiles in my ceiling. I've thought about painting my barrack, so I could watch the paint dry, but I might get fined for that. :)

Next week, it looks like we might get to help out with other units that don't have chaplains (i.e., too small to have chaplains), so that will provide a welcome relief.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Back from Pass

It's been a great few days. I just got back to Camp Shelby after spending four days with my wife and son while on pass. What a huge morale booster. We went to Natchez, Mississippi for three nights, and spent last night in Jackson. We visited some antebellum homes, some old graveyards, ate good food, and just enjoyed being together.

Here are some pictures from the trip.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

On Pass in Natchez

I am on a four day pass right now, in Natchez, Mississippi. My wife, son and dog came down to visit me, and I got a four day pass, so we headed over to a town called Natchez, on the Mississippi River. Natchez is the oldest city on the Mississippi, and it is absolutely beautiful. I'll post some pictures in a few days; I forgot to bring my camera USB cord to upload pictures with me!

It's great to see them. It's nice to see the dog, as well. We couldn't find anyone to watch him, so, as a consequence, he gets to come to Mississippi! They will head to Florida after this to visit her family.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Life at Shelby

Well it’s been a while since I posted, but it’s mainly because there hasn’t been much to write. I’m in full blown “hurry up and wait” mode. Right now we’re working up the chain of command to see if they can send us earlier. I’m not scheduled to leave for a while, but hopefully we can move it up.

That brings me to an interesting subject, and that is OPSEC (operational security). When I do eventually find out when I am leaving, I will not post it online, or probably even be able to tell others the exact date. A ssoldiers, we have to maintain security and that includes things like not disclosing departure times, exact areas of operations, schedules and other common sense things.

I’m getting into a routine with my free time. Some days I have a number of things to do, such as the chaplain training on Mondays and Thursday in the morning, while others days I have very little to do. As strange as it sounds, boredom is one of the biggest struggles for soldiers. So I’ve kept busy with working out, keeping things clean, and surfing the web. I’ve got to walk about a mile for internet access, but it’s worth it when the boredom set in. It also makes you appreciate life when you realize all of the things you normally are obligated to do. Having a day off now and then is nice, but you quickly find out that too much of nothing is too much.

I hope all are well, and I will try and post more frequently in the coming days.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Why I'm at Camp Shelby

This morning, I was admittedly a little frustrated at my current boredom, having to walk everywhere, and the prospect of potentially having very little to do for a while. Call it my own little pity-party. So this afternoon I decided to spend some extra time on PT (physical training- i.e., working out). I went to the gym, lifted weights, ran on the treadmill, and then decided to go shoot baskets. I was the only one in the gym, and shot for a few minutes, and then went over to examine a large flag that is hanging in the gym. It brought me to the verge of tears, and reminded me of why I'm in the Army, and why I'm at Camp Shelby right now. The flag is a giant (2-3 story) flag, made from around 3000 smaller flags. Each of the small American flags bears the name of one of the victims from 9-11. Along with these American flags are the flags of each nation that lost someone on 9-11 (over 80 nations). Maybe of the flags have messages of condolences as well as encouragement for the US. I have posted some pictures in detail on the web, and you can find them by clicking here. (If that doesn't work, the web address is:

The flag made me proud of what we're doing over in the mideast. While nothing we do is perfect, I firmly believe that this world will be blessed if we can see this whole thing through, and help to foster the fledgling democracies in that part of the world.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

More Hurry Up And Wait

Well, I'm fully into the "hurry up and wait" mode now. We are green in DARTS- meaning we have completed all of the Army mandated training to deploy. We are not, however, scheduled to leave until late August. What does that mean? Not a lot to do for the next six weeks unless they decide to send us early, which is always possible.

Since I don't have much to write about, I've posted a video of me riding in the top of a Humvee. Go to: in order to watch the video. If you have high speed internet, it should be fine to view. Here the high speed wireless is not very high speed, so I have to try it a couple of times to watch.

Other than that, not much has changed here. Camp Shelby is not exactly the ideal place to be with nothing to do. The DFAC (Dining Facility) we're supposed to eat at is 2 miles from our barrack, there is a small gym near us, and, of course, this wireless place about a mile from my barrack. It wouldn't be so bad if the buses ran on regular schedules, but I end up walking almost anywhere I go. The nice part of this, however, is that almost anywhere I go overseas will be nicer than Camp Shelby! (as an aside: the people are great, in my opinion... this just isn't a good place to mobilize from)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fourth of July

Well, tomorrow is the Fourth of July. It's a blessing to be celebrating it while I am preparing to deploy. Here are some observations and encouragements:

1) This is a great country we have. Please don't forget that as you celebrate tomorrow. Don't let the media, or anyone else, convince you that this isn't the greatest country ever. Ignore people like Michael Moore, Al Franken, John Murtha, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and so many others, who always give the benefit of the doubt to the terrorist before our nation, or its soldiers. I've been to 48 of the 50 states, as well as 13 other countries, and I can say that the US is a great nation.

2) Remember Vietnam. We gave up, because of pressure from the public. To this day the Vietnamese suffer oppression, religious persecution, and so many terrible things. Contrast that with South Korea, and the fact that we still have soldiers there- and that nation is blessed because of it.

3) Soldier morale: don't believe what you hear in the media. Soldiers are feeling great. I am at a mobilization center with soldiers deploying to go overseas. They are excited, they love this nation, and their morale is NOT down. I can't tell you how many I have met who are volunteering to go back to Iraq or Afghanistan. Our US Army is doing well.

Anyway, thanks to all of you who have sent me emails regarding the 4th of July. Enjoy it. This is a great country, with a great military, and it's OK to recognize and celebrate that!
God bless,

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Back from the Field

Well, I'm back from the field. It's amazing how a week and a half ago, I felt like the Barracks here were, well, not very nice. Now, I feel like I am coming back to luxury. Nice to have a little air conditioning.

It was a busy few days. Basically, to keep it short, here is what we did: we went out to run mock convoys. We would run four or five humvees onto a range, where we would encounter, and suppress, enemy fire, encounter IEDs (improvised explosive devices), RPGS (rocket propelled grenades) and the like. We ran the lane three times: the first with the mounted gunners being the only ones firing real bullets, once with everyone firing blanks, and once with all live ammo.

I'm tired now. But it was fun, and I really enjoy the camaraderie. I'm not going to write much mroe right now, but I'm posting some pictures. One is a picture of me in the gun turrent (but without a gun, of course), another is a picture of me in my IBA (Individual Body Armor) and another is a picture of our tent. The IBA is very heavy..I don't know how many pounds, but maybe 30 pounds?

Anyway, I'll write more as time allows! God bless-