Army Celebrates 100 Years Of Chaplain Assistants
(December 2, 2009)
|BAGHDAD (Nov. 27, 2009) -- On Dec. 28, 1909, General Order No. 253 was
published, establishing the official military occupational specialty of the
chaplain assistant, stating that one enlisted man will serve to assist the
chaplain in the performance of his official duties.
|Chief of Chaplains Maj. Gen. Douglas Carver
(left), Pfc. Cody Curtis, a chaplain assistant with the 16th
Psychological Operations Task Force (center) and Chief of Chaplains
and Regimental Sgt. Maj. Tommy Marrero, cut a cake Nov. 25, 2009
during the 100th anniversary of the chaplain assistant celebratory
dinner at Camp Victory's Joint Visitors Bureau in Baghdad, Iraq.
One hundred years later, Chief of Chaplains Maj. Gen. Douglas L. Carver and
Chief of Chaplains Regimental Sgt. Maj. Tommy Marrero joined about 100
chaplains and chaplain assistants serving on religious support teams
throughout Baghdad, Iraq, on Nov. 25, for a celebratory dinner at Camp
Victory's Joint Visitors Bureau.
"We have come a very long way," said Marrero, a Cayey, Puerto Rico, native.
Marrero, who joined the Army in 1984, told the story of the chaplain
assistant and humored the crowd with stories of the changes chaplain
assistants have seen over the past 25 years he has served in the Army.
"It's really cool that Chaplain Carver and Sergeant Major Marrero came out
here to celebrate with us," said Nixa, Mo., native Sgt. Michael Campbell, a
chaplain assistant with the Multi-National Corps-Iraq chaplain's office. "It
shows that even though we're only chaplain assistants, they still honor what
we do up to the highest level."
Carver, of Rome, Ga., explained that chaplains would not be able to provide
the quality support they do if it weren't for the assistants who are by
"They really set the conditions for the chaplain," Carver said. "They
provide protection to the chaplain, as well as do everything else that is
asked of them as a Soldier in the United States Army."
Although established in 1909, the Chaplain Corps made proposals to the
secretary of war in 1927 and in 1933 to provide a small corps of specialized
enlisted assistants. Their proposals were unsuccessful until after World War
II. The start of the Korean War afforded chaplain assistants a specific job.
Training consisted of nine weeks of basic training, nine weeks of clerk
typist training and a voluntary four-week course vaguely covering the job of
a chaplain assistant. In 1965, chaplain assistants were given a pin-pointed
job description and specific skill requirements.
"Before you can be an effective chaplain assistant, you have to be an
effective Soldier first," said Marrero.
Carver agreed that Soldiering comes first, above all, but chaplain
assistants continue to go above and beyond to make sure servicemembers are
provided with quality spiritual and faith-based care.
"I was visiting (Multi-National Division-South), and Soldiers had taken a
tent and turned it into a place called 'Holy Joes'. You could walk in 24
hours a day and get a hot cup of coffee, watch a movie or just sit and
relax," said Carver. "Here were these Soldiers who asked themselves 'What
can I do to improve the life of our community?' It is amazing."
Carver commended chaplain assistants for their dedication in trying times,
especially while serving in the midst of a war. With the stresses of war,
Carver said chaplain assistants here can serve as a first line of defense
for chaplains by screening Soldiers who may be struggling.
"They can talk with their fellow Soldiers and determine if they need to see
a chaplain, or they may decide that Soldier needs to seek medical attention
right away," Carver said. "They are there to help get that person the care
Before the evening concluded, Carver reminded all chaplain assistants in
attendance about the great things they continue to do for chaplains and
"Chaplains assistants have that willingness to do and try anything to
accomplish the mission," said Carver. "You should be very proud."
Article and photo by Army Sgt. Lindsey Bradford
Multi-National Corps-Iraq Public Affairs Office
Army News Service
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