FORT JACKSON, SC (WLUC) When you think of the U.S. Army you most likely think of soldiers on the front lines fighting for our freedom gun in hand.
What you may not realize is not everyone on the battle field has a gun.
For one special branches group the only weapon at their disposal is their faith.
Based out of Fort Jackson in South Carolina is the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center.
Here Chaplains from the army, air force and navy are all trained to be officers in their respective branches.
“You are standing at the center of the universe for all things religious support as it relates to the army,” according to Chief of Professional Military Education Robert Allman.
Just to join the military Chaplains must have already earned a bachelor’s degree, and have, or are currently pursuing a masters of divinity or theology.
So, as Simulations Officer Mike John says, for Chaplains, their version of boot camp is slightly different.
“The Chaplain’s first day in the army is here at the Chaplain School. Unlike other officers who go to a bullet course, basic officer leader course down in Fort Benning Georgia.”
This consists of a nine week period, which can be done all at once or split up.
Much of their time is spent in the classroom and on a state of the art simulator.
Johnson says it’s to prepare them for what they may see on the battlefield.
“If they’re in a convoy in the virtual simulation center they can make all the mistakes and it won’t cost them their life. If they go out to the battle field and make the same mistake it might cost them their life. They learn how to be in a vehicle, get in and out of a vehicle following the Chaplain assistant for security and do the right thing.”
Despite being different the training these Chaplain’s go through not only supports troops on a tactical level but more importantly by offering religious support for soldiers in their time of need.
“A lot of soldiers see things out there they don’t need to see, that’s where the Chaplin comes in to provide counseling, maybe even grief counseling cause they witnessed the death of a buddy or so,” said Johnson.
As Allman said, the Chaplains consider their service being a perfect marriage between military and ministry.
“It’s a kin in many ways to being a missionary. Being sent out into potentially harm’s way, but being sent out into areas that maybe are unknown but yet they sense God is wanting to speak to those individuals. That’s an opportunity the ministry and military affords them, is to speak into the lives of people they may never have seen.”
At the end of the day Chaplains of all different faith backgrounds know that being there to support their fellow soldiers from day one till the end of their careers is a mission they’ll can’t and don’t take lightly.
“We do what they do, so that they know that there have been others that have been there and done that with them. I think it’s a great way of modeling what a Chaplin does for new recruits,” said Allman.
Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Islam are the most common beliefs among Chaplains, those are then broken up into hundreds of separate denominations of faith.
Only faith groups which are endorsed and have ecclesiastical certifications are recognized by the United States military.