Hooyah Battle Chaps
by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Anderson
November 23, 2019
The sun has set on the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). The day shift has turned over work to the night crew. As the night shift begins, the 1MC (shipboard public address circuits) clicks on ... “stand by for the evening prayer.”
A deep voice dripping with a Kansas accent passes throughout the ship, “good evening big five family.”
This one of the nightly routines for Lt. Joshua Holland, amphibious assault ship USS Bataan’s LHD 5, deputy chaplain, who has been lovingly dubbed by the crew as “Battle Chaps.”
August 25, 2019 - Lt. Joshua Holland, a chaplain assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), speaks to Sailors and Marines in the ship's chapel before a protestant worship service. Bataan is underway conducting an Amphibious Ready Group, Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise (ARGMEUEX) with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anna E. Van Nuys)
Chaplains have been a part of the United States Navy since day one. They provide religious services and counselings to Sailors and Marines everywhere they serve.
Holland’s unofficial title of “Battle Chaps” came from his particular brand of ministry. Any time an evolution is happening on the ship, from loading a missile into the NATO Sea Sparrow to working parties and flight operations, Holland is there taking part and talking to Sailors and Marines. For Holland, taking part in these evolutions is a critical part of chaplaincy.
“I’ve got to be out on the deck plates,” said Holland. “I’ve got to be with the crew, see what they’re doing. The only way I’m going to know what it’s like in deck department is if I’m out there working with them. The only way you’re going to know what it’s like for the Sailors on the flight deck is when flight operations have been going for 10 hours and its 100 degrees outside, is if I go out on the flight deck. You’ve got to understand what those things look like and feel like to be effective as a chaplain.”
Without the support of the crew, Holland wouldn’t be able to get those experiences that help him do his job. “Bataan allows me to do this. Captain Leland, Captain Carmichael, CMC [command master chief], the wardroom and the chief’s mess, they allow me to do this. Because I can’t show up to a station or an evolution if I don’t have permission,” said Holland. “I have chiefs and officers seeking me out and asking me to come be a part of evolution and a lot of chaplains across the Navy don’t get that. I’d be nothing without that support. I’d just be stuck in my office waiting for a Sailor or Marine to come to me instead of going to them.”
Holland’s desire to be with the crew started as soon as he checked on board and participated in indoctrination , a six-week program to help new Sailors learn about the ship and qualify in basic mission readiness evolutions such as, fighting fires, performing maintenance and standing ship’s security watches. Part of indoctrination is the Ocorelum Capasasum (OC) course while learning security tactics. Sailors are sprayed with OC and have to complete a series of tasks. Though Holland was not required to complete the course, he wasn’t going to back out.
“If the rest of my indoc classmates were going to go through the OC course and get sprayed in the face, I was going to do it too,” said Holland.
Holland’s participation in the OC course earned him a shout out from Bataan Commanding Officer Capt. Bradley Bush at an all hands call. After the shout out, someone in the crowd yelled out “Hooyah Battle Chaps” and the nickname has stuck ever since. While the nickname was given out of love, it took some time for Holland to accept the title.
“At first I had an issue with battle chaps, because I’ve never been in battle,” said Holland. “There are some chaplains who have actually been in battle; I just got OC sprayed. But the CO reminded me that while I may not have been in that type of battle, I battle in the mind, and I feel that as a chaplain that’s where I can battle. We have Sailors and Marines who battle inwardly against an enemy that no one can see, but chaplains, we see that enemy and we’re on that battle field with them.”
August 25, 2019 - Lt. Joshua Holland, left, a chaplain assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), and Operations Specialist 2nd Class Charles Wright, assigned to Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 22 sing together before a protestant worship service in the ship's chapel aboard the Bataan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anna E. Van Nuys)
Holland’s journey to the military started as a child surrounded by military role models. “My dad was in the Army,” said Holland. “So I grew up having a G.I. Joe as a dad. I have uncles who served in the Marine Corps, my pastor growing up was a Marine and my wife’s grandfather was in the Navy during World War II. I’ve got a lot of family history in the military, so I’ve always had a deep respect and admiration for service members.”
These role models and military aspirations made the perfect formula for an early start to a military career, but a different path presented itself to Holland. “I always wanted to be in and when I graduated high school I was going to join the Marine Corps,” said Holland. “But I also had an opportunity to play college football, so I had to make a decision: join the Marine Corps or go to college and play ball and at the time I felt like I had to take the chance to play ball.”
After finishing college Holland began his career in ministry and started his family. But the desire to serve in the military never left, and after the birth of his fifth child the time was finally right for Holland to join, and his career choice qualified him for the chaplaincy. “To fulfill both my passions, service to god and service to my country, that’s just a match made in heaven,” said Holland.
Bataan is Holland’s first duty station and while he says he is enjoying shipboard life and the job, military life brings personal struggles for everyone who joins. “There is always a considerable challenge for us personally,” said Holland. “My whole life has completely changed; I spent my whole life as a civilian. For my wife and kids, they’re used to dad being a pastor in a local church who is home a lot and who has never missed anything. To, now dad’s gone, dad’s on the ship. But it’s good for me as a chaplain to experience those challenges because that’s what the crew experiences and that’s what it is to be in the military.”
Holland uses his experiences from his personal life and his time spent with the crew to offer personal, 100 percent confidential counseling services to all Sailors and Marines aboard the Bataan. And while Holland is a Christian chaplain, anyone can utilize his services regardless of religious preference or background. “If you’re non-religious we can still be friends, if you’re non-religious we can still kick it,” said Holland.” I’ve personally found my foundation in religion, but I understand that everyone isn’t going to have that same belief. But as chaplains we’re trained to talk to people and give counsel regardless of religious background.”
Holland has a long promising career as a Navy chaplain ahead of him, but no matter where he goes, he will always be a battling bastard, [a crew moniker]. “The Bataan is my first ship, first duty station, first everything and it’s been pretty incredible,” said Holland. “This is a unique opportunity to be both a minister and an active duty service member. To watch flight operations and watch well deck operations and see the ins and outs of what we do in the Navy to support and defend freedom and democracy is a pretty remarkable experience.”
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