View Full Version : Navy Chaplains offer Corps support

07-21-04, 08:02 AM
Navy Chaplains offer Corps support

Submitted by: MCAS Cherry Point
Story Identification #: 2004716161429
Story by Pfc. James D. Hamel

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (July 15, 2004) -- You see a Marine on the battlefield. At first glace, he’s the same as any of your comrades, desert utilities and combat boots. He’s covered in the same sand, sweat and blood that you are.

Bullets fly by him just as they speed past you.

But then you realize, this Marine isn’t firing back. Instead of an M-16, he has a cross in his hand. Where full magazines are attached to your deuce gear, a Bible is attached to his.

And then you realize that this isn’t a combatant. In fact, it isn’t even a Marine, it’s a Navy Chaplain. Exposing himself to fire just like you, not to kill the enemy, but to support the Marines in the dirt.

What is the job of a chaplain, on and off the battlefield? Why do they do it? And how do they reconcile the fact that they are men and women who spread the word of God, yet their primary purpose is to serve those who kill?

The chaplain’s primary purpose is to “inform the commanding officer as far as the religious needs of the battalion… and conduct and facilitate religious services,” said Navy Lt. Don W. Rogers, Battalion chaplain of 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, which has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003.

This mission is at the heart of counseling and weekly church services. And while circumstances and environment might change in combat, that mission stays the same.

Rogers said that the biggest difference is the concerns Marines have. Chaplains are still there to counsel on spiritual and personal problems; it’s just that those problems change when bullets start flying.

He said that number 1 amongst those concerns is the fear of death. Navy Capt. Carolyn Wiggins, the MCAS Cherry Point Command Chaplain agreed, “The biggest stressor is of course being shot at, the fact that you’re a target.”

That fear is not lost on the chaplains, who sometimes are put into the same situations as combat troops, but are not allowed to carry a weapon, because the laws of war label them as non-combatants.

Chaplains are not totally without protection, however. Religious programmer specialists are designated as chaplain bodyguards, and even when RPs are not available, Rogers noted that there is still some level of protection, “As Marines do their job and defend their positions, they’re going to defend you.”

Some of the biggest challenges when ministering to Marines during wartime are faced after the troops come home. “The post-combat area is one of our most important,” Wiggins said. “We help them reintegrate themselves back into their lives and deal with combat stress.”

With all of their duties, it is sometimes easy to forget that these are men and women who have devoted themselves to God. Considering that, do they have problems supporting those whose mission is to kill?

Not really, murdering in cold blood and killing in a combat situation are completely different, Wiggins said.

Rogers agreed, “I don’t think you have to leave your Christianity at the door when you become a Marine or go to combat.”

It might seem odd that chaplains would go to war to minister to Marines. But, as Rogers said, “If a chaplain is not willing to put himself in a combat situation, it makes it hard for him to minister to Marines.”

After all, ministering to Marines is what a their job is. Whether that means giving a rroutine church service, or preaching the Gospel in combat and chaos, Navy chaplains are on top of it.


Chaplains support Marines on and off the field of battle. Photo by: Pfc. James Hamel