FORT JACKSON, S.C. - In April of 1775 a cleric from New England
named William Emerson ministered to the minutemen at the Battle of
Concord on the North Bridge, thus officially becoming the first
chaplain of the Revolutionary War.
A few months later on July
29, the Chaplain Corps was formally recognized by the Continental
Congress at Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Today, more than 3,000
Army chaplains, representing 140 different religious organizations,
serve as religious leaders to Soldiers and their families, in
peacetime and in combat.
Though their role as chaplain
distinguishes them from combatants, nearly 300 members of the
centuries old corps have lost their lives in combat to date. With
the primary goal of the Army being to fight and win the nation's
wars; the goal of the Chaplain is to provide spiritual ministry to
“BOLC is about survivability,” said Maj. Andrew
Lawrence, course manager of the Chaplain Basic Officer Leaders
Course, U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School. “If they are not well
versed on their Army Warrior Tasks then they become a liability on
the battlefield and someone else is going to have to take care of
them. That takes combat power away from the very unit they are
supposed to serve. Chaplains simply cannot be a liability on the
May 27, 2015 - Officers in the Chaplain's Basic Officer Leaders Course prepare to exit the CBRN chamber, but only before receiving a brief introduction to a small dose of CS gas. The 104th Training Division (LT) facilitated the training at the facility. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton)
It is for that simple but important reason that
survivability has become the focus of all the Army's
chaplain candidates entering the Basic Officer Leaders
Course at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. In order to train
those necessary skills, the Army relies heavily on the Army
Reserve's 104th Training Division (Leader Training).
Since 1999, the Soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 313th
Infantry Regiment, 104th Training Division (LT), have been
instructing warrior tasks and survivability in each USACCS
class iteration. Those tasks include, day and night land
navigation, communications, CBRN defense and movement under
fire, just to name a few.
“By teaching these things
it gives the chaplain an understanding of what we, as
infantry Soldiers in a combat situation, are doing. In turn,
it helps them understand what they need to do in order to
protect themselves,” said Staff Sgt. Jim Ott, B Company, 3rd
Battalion, 313th Infantry Regiment,104th Training Division.
“This also takes some of the pressure off the chaplain
assistant,” Ott added.
During peacetime, the chaplain
assistant helps coordinate and synchronize religious
activities and provides religious support operations. During
combat, that role takes on a whole new meaning as they shift
from an administrative role to combatant whose primarily
responsibility is the safety and protection of the chaplain.
“Typically in combat, my job is to place the chaplain in
a position where I can protect and defend him or her,” said
Staff Sergeant John Cushman, USACCS chaplain assistant and
former Army Reserve Soldier.
“Every chaplain here is
a new chaplain, whether they have prior military experience
or not. It can be a challenge transitioning from a combatant
to a non-combatant. The training they receive here at BOLC
helps them to understand what they need to do in order for
us to be effective in our jobs,” Cushman said.
most of the chaplain candidates attending this BOLC class
being Army Reserve or National Guard, encounters with
instructors from the Army Reserve are especially impactful
and add an additional training benefit.
Reserve component and also the Guard, the 104th being here
gives these candidates someone they can relate to and also
gives them a sense of what their units are going to look
like and how they operate,” Lawrence said.
John Craber, Chaplain Candidate, 108th Training Command
(IET), agreed with that assessment but takes it a step
“Having the 104th here has been a lot of fun
for me in particular. These same instructors were out with
me on a long weekend drill in April. I recognize a lot of
them and they recognize me. They are all very knowledgeable
and that has been an extra added benefit here in the
“Beyond that, I think chaplains need to be
with Soldiers. If the Soldier is down there getting muddy
then we need to be right there with them getting muddy.
Performing this training gives us an idea of what we can
expect to go through when we get out there in the field,”
In all, 60 chaplain candidates received
training at the USACCS under the watchful eye of the 104th.
With a professional training plan and a hefty dose of
experience from Army Reserve Soldiers like Jim Ott, those
candidates will now be able to focus on their job as
minister to the troops while the Soldiers whose spiritual
well-being they are charged, won't have to focus on them.
By U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton
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