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Reflecting on the Impact of Chaplains On the Fleet, Fighter and Family

By Rear Adm. John C. Scorby
Commander Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia

I recently had the distinct pleasure of speaking at our regional Chaplain Corps ball to celebrate a calling, a commissioning, and a connection with our U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard that has endured for 240 years.

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SAN ANTONIO (Jan. 28, 2014) Master-at-Arms Seaman Angel Ward, left, assists chapel staff at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, as part of the chapel’s White Rope Leadership Program that allows Sailors and Airmen to assist chaplains with religious services and community-based events.

With the founding of the Navy and a month later the founding of the Marine Corps, it was certainly inevitable that many warriors would find a need for chaplains to cultivate their faith, values, morals, and commitment.

I say inevitable, because armed combat is not, despite what our history shows, something that comes easily to most people.  However normal it might be to struggle with the moral implications of combat on the eve of battle, an effective fighting force must not only be physically and mentally prepared for what they are about to encounter, but many will need to prepare spiritually for what may lie ahead.

Spiritual readiness has always been the primary mission of the Chaplain Corps, but as you and I know, the modern-day chaplain casts an extremely wide net when it comes to the spiritual health of our military and has a broad range of influence on our contemporary force.

Within the naval installations command, our motto is that we support the Fleet, the Fighter and the Family.  There are very few organizations on an installation that get to support all three legs of this triad but the Chaplain Corps does, and on a personal note, chaplains have had a tremendous impact on me throughout my career.  I have relied on chaplains for personal guidance and as the touchstone for morale throughout the command.

Chaplains should never underestimate the influence they have over many of our men and women, whether they are a brand new Sailor or an admiral.

Here are some thoughts Captain Todd Watkins shared with me when I asked him how chaplains have influenced his career. Watkins is the officer in charge of a facility in Region Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia:

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Naval Station Everett, Wash. (Mar. 26, 2004) Navy Chaplain Lt. Timothy Loney leafs through the Holy Bible aboard the Naval Station Everett base chapel.

“Prior to my first time in command, I saw our chaplains as ‘tourniquets’— a resource to be used in times of crises.  After having the privilege of working with multiple chaplains from multiple faith groups and observing them establish themselves in my commands, I gained a whole new appreciation for chaplains and what they could do to improve mission readiness in the Navy. When properly used, our chaplains are like ‘vitamins’ — someone the crew sees and interacts with on a daily basis.  In the same manner that vitamins feed our bodies, our chaplains feed both my and many of my Sailors’ souls and keep us spiritually topped off with the things we need to prevent a spiritual breakdown.

Our chaplains are accessible and approachable.  They are out on the deck plates interacting with our Sailors and Marines, not confined to their offices waiting for people to seek them out.  It’s not unusual for a warrior in my command to be seen chatting with the chaplain.  They help keep our crew strong and enable the commanding officer to recognize both personal and command-wide issues so that the commander has the opportunity to fix the small things before they grow into larger and potentially catastrophic issues.”

The Chaplain Corps is everywhere you find Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and their families, and many with whom I spoke were eager to share their stories about how a chaplain has touched their lives.

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY, Bahrain (Sept. 13, 2007) - Rear Adm. Harold L. Robinson, Deputy Chief of Chaplains for Reserve Matters and Director of Religious Programs, Marine Force Reserve, reads from the Torah during a morning Rosh Hashana service at the Naval Support Activity Bahrain chapel.
NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY, Bahrain (Sept. 13, 2007) – Rear Adm. Harold L. Robinson, Deputy Chief of Chaplains for Reserve Matters and Director of Religious Programs, Marine Force Reserve, reads from the Torah during a morning Rosh Hashana service at the Naval Support Activity Bahrain chapel.

Our local chaplains here in Naples are no exception.  They are the linchpin between many of our families, our Sailors and our commands, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen more active congregationsthan I have here in Naples.  The chaplain has always been a part of my command team and some of my most memorable moments are times I spent with them, particularly while on squadron deployments.  . Happy 240th Anniversary, chaplains!

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  1. Vitamins of our faith chaplains are men of God, whatever we call him, who put our Lord between us and boost our faith, our spirituality, that is our essence. Without we are like cars deprived of oil, then not able to act with the necessary energy. With we are able to do our duty, on all situations, on the best manner. They are those to whom we refer for understand, on same situations, the will of our Lord and how follow it. Essential for alls, they are also the real nerbature of Navy and make it a big family where God is the father, the brother, the friend to whom we, by their means, address any day and when tired. It is for so we are ever charged of will and skill, Happy birhtday, Chaplains Corp, and thanks to exist, to be. claudio alpaca

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