Sailor Serves With Religious Ministries In Horn of Africa
by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Natalia Murillo
December 30, 2020
The dimming African sun shines through the red, white and blue fabric of the flag as Barry Menges hoists it to the top of the pole during a ceremonial flag presentation.
U.S. Navy Religious Program Specialist 1st Class Barry Menges of Auburn, Indiana, positions candles for a Blue Christmas service held on Camp Lemonnier on December 21, 2020. Blue Christmas, also known as the Longest Night, falls on the Winter Solstice. A western Christian tradition, it is designed for those who may have difficulty during the holidays due to mourning a loss, life change or other emotional struggle. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Natalia Murillo)
U.S. Navy Religious Program Specialist 1st Class Barry Menges from Auburn, Indiana, is a U.S. Navy Sailor deployed to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti (CLDJ), to provide administrative assistance and protect the base Chaplains.
Menges, a 2001 graduate of DeKalb High School, credits his interest to serve as a Religious Program Specialist to a conversation had as a young man in Auburn.
“When I was 29, a friend in the Army shared with me what he does as a Chaplain’s assistant and it sounded very rewarding so I researched what the different branches had to offer in that military occupation and decided to go with RP in the Navy,” said Menges.
Religious Program Specialists (RPs) serve God and country. According to Navy officials, they prepare devotional materials, organize faith-based events, maintain religious records, and serve as a source of personal security for Navy Chaplains. Part of the RP’s training includes marine combat training.
“It would be very difficult to be in a situation like this without an RP. Chaplains aren’t combatants, we can’t carry weapons,” said CLDJ’s Chaplain Cmdr. Luis Alderman. “They’re our bodyguards for whenever we go outside the wire. We couldn’t do any kind of ministry without them.”
U.S. Navy Chaplain Cmdr. Luis Alderman of Cumberland, Maryland, left, and Religious Program Specialist 1st Class Barry Menges of Auburn, Indiana, discuss Blue Christmas at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, on December 21, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Natalia Murillo)
Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti supports combat readiness and provides security to ships, aircraft, forward-detachments and personnel in the Horn of Africa while fostering positive relationships between the U.S. and many nations in Africa. Located in an austere environment, Camp Lemonnier is the only enduring U.S. military base on the continent of Africa.
“I found as I got older, only living for myself, I was missing the big picture of life and there really is more return in the investment of others outside of myself,” said Menges. “This discovery led me to the armed forces in hopes of specifically serving as an RP with Chaplains where one may serve those personnel, outside of ourselves who are already sacrificing and serving.”
In addition to group services of faith on base, the CLDJ Chaplains and the Religious Programs Specialists provide individual guidance and support at adverse locations.
As the team leader for CLDJ’s religious ministries, Menges coordinates the office operations. He is most proud of the supportive services he provides to his fellow service members stationed here.
“What I like most about my job is seeing individuals out here in the fight receive the appropriate support they require to get back in the fight,” states Menges.
One way that Menges gives back at CLDJ is by overseeing the base’s ceremonial flag program.
Flags are often flown and sent back to a loved one or supportive friends.
Menges adds that you can request the date and time that your flag be flown. Anyone may contact the Chaplain’s office to fly a state flag, U.S. flag or nationality flag. There is no cost for this service and the accompanying certificate. The flags are not provided.
Mendes also takes pride in his own authority to be as a resource for his fellow sister and brothers in arms who may need someone to talk to in times of need.
“Religious Program Specialists fall under the Navy regulation holding us to complete confidentiality,” said Menges. “Nothing disclosed to any member of our team is ever released without your discretion no matter who is requesting information regarding a counseling, regardless of rank.”
Menges adds how working in an office filled with a team of encouragement and guidance provides its own benefits.
“Working directly for Chaplains is like having a personal support team every day.”
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