Chaplains and their assistants.
What the Army used to call the UMT, The Unit Ministry Team, and is now the RST, Religious Support Team is a special kind of small-scale unit. The Chaplain, and his Chaplain’s Assistant. From the Chaplain Training website:
"Ministry in motion. Adventure and challenge. Serving those who serve. You will accompany Soldiers all over the world as they carry out their missions. And while you minister to the Soldiers, you and your family will be enriched as you are exposed to new places, new peoples, and new cultures. Your faith will be enriched, challenged, and strengthened as you carry out your duties as the spiritual leader in the spiritual community known as the Army."
For 17 years we have seen first-hand the assistant side of the coin and now we enter into the other side: the Chaplain. I was always amazed at what the assistant has to do for his Chaplain, long hours often times, bulletins, reports, and setups. We wouldn’t see him during 3 out of 4 Sundays during the month. Saturday night mass, three services on Sunday morning, then evening service; he would be gone usually on Easter, Christmas, and was even asked to provide child care during a marriage retreat; one that we as a family were not invited to, which also happened to be over Father’s Day weekend. There were missed dinners, and cancelled plans; part of that is just the military, but the dedication with which my husband did his job, required that many of the things he would rather have been doing went undone.
Being a Chaplain will be much the same in that regard, and it is something I am used to already. My sweetheart learned much from those 17 years, what to do and what not to do as a Chaplain. Some Chaplains were really difficult to live with, and work with. Some were terrific and we longed to work with them more, but the Army moves people, and we would say our sad goodbyes. It has also given him a greater appreciation for the assistant, having been one himself. He’s worked along side some assistants who were there only “to get an easy A” as we would say in high school about an easy class: choir or teacher’s aid. Some of these soldiers had no more business being a Chaplain Assistant than I have in scaling Mount Everest, not equipped, not fit for the mission and did not have a heart for task.
When Bear was deployed the first time to Iraq in 2003, our FRG had briefings about safety in battle. Many wives were concerned about protection, and rightly so; and the First Sergeant tried to squelch their fears with the assurance that everyone carried a weapon with them at all times and they were thereby protected. I raised my hand and pointed out to our good 1SG, that no, indeed, everyone did not carry a weapon, and there is one soldier in the unit who does the job of two; the Chaplain and the Chaplain assistant. He had forgotten about them, well because, they are a team in and amongst themselves. They fall under the S-1 shop, office staff, and they are often looked over in large units, I don’t think people really understand this small “team” nor do they fully appreciate the members who serve within.
The relationship between Chaplain and assistant is special; there must be complete trust especially in a combat zone, as the Chaplain is a non-combatant and relies on the assistant for his protection. I never thought about Bear going to the firing range before, he would sometimes be within just a few shots of not qualifying, he has even had his rifle jam and misfire, scary stuff to be sure. Soldiers beside him would have extra shots in their targets, indicating that my DH’s shots had not hit the mark, so to speak. I know that God protected Bear and his Chaplains when they were deployed, but now I add another prayer request, that the unknown assistant who will be teamed with my dear Chaplain, will shoot straight and true. May it never be that firing is needed, but make him swift and steadfast.
I would like to quote a chaplain who is at Ch-BOLC right now, he puts this relationship succinctly and effectively:
“We place complete trust and confidence into the hands of our Chaplain Assistants. It is humbling to realize that there are folk that are willing to not only protect themselves but would put their own lives in harms way to protect mine. The sacrifice that they are willing to make is awesome.”
That kind of sacrifice is no small thing to a soldier, and it is no small thing to place your life in the hands of someone else.
My prayer for you, dear reader, is that you know this kind of relationship: the relationship between Protector and the protected, between Lord and Child of God, that you may know what it is to place your trust wholly in the hands of another, that other being Jesus Christ. That you have found and trust in the saving work of His sacrifice, which He willing made on our behalf.
And while you are there praying and thanking God for His sacrifice, offer a prayer of protection for Military Chaplains and their Chaplain Assistants.