Chaplain Initial Military Training (CIMT) is a three-week period of indoctrination during which a civilian is transformed into a soldier. All newly commissioned chaplains and chaplain candidates are required to attend CIMT (on a case-to-case basis, some prior service chaplains are given exemption) before they proceed to Phase I of the Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course (CH-BOLC). In the tradition of the United States Army Chaplain Center and School (USACHCS), student chaplains and chaplain candidates will “earn” the beret when they graduate from CIMT. The “Beret Donning Ceremony” was done on the last day of CIMT and marked a chaplain’s graduation from initial military training. From then he or she can proceed to the next phases of BOLC.
For me, this concludes the first part of my military training. Tomorrow I will head back to Illinois to attend to my parish. Maybe I’ll get lucky next year and find a few weeks off from parish work so I can continue with Phase I with another CH-BOLC cohort.
CH Winton fixes the beret
4th Platoon with SGL CH Winton
Three Catholic Priests
Three weeks ago, the members of the CH-BOLC Class 03-2009 did not know each other. Over a three-week period of grueling training, of working together, and of breaking bread with each other, there is no denying that we have bonded with each other. While many will continue with the next phases of Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course, others (especially the National Guards and Reserve chaplains) will go back to their own families and churches to fulfill their responsibilities, and maybe down the road find some free time once more to come to Fort Jackson to attend a phase or two of chaplain training until they graduate and become fully qualified to function as US Army chaplains. The army is a family and surely our paths will cross again somehow somewhere.
Fourth Platoon Dinner
The Catholic garrison chaplain normally celebrates four Masses every weekend (one on Saturday and three on Sundays), in addition to his other pastoral duties that normally can’t wait until later. The Catholic chaplain is stretched out thin. The Catholic priests-students at the school house knew this, so they always make an effort to help him whenever their own time and circumstances permit them.
Today, I feel specially blessed because I had an opportunity to join four of my priest-brothers at a concelebrated Mass for the basic trainees at the main auditorium. There were about 2,000 Catholic soldiers in that auditorium who were able to assist at Holy Mass.
Mass with Basic Trainees
The garrison Catholic chaplain invited us to his residence for a nice meal and fellowship. The informal event was meant to introduce the priests who were attending CHBOLC with other military priests (Army & Navy) who were assigned in and around Fort Jackson. It was a wonderful occasion to meet and share stories with the veterans. It was also a nice break from the demands of army chaplain training.
As chaplains, we are classified by the Geneva Convention as non-combatants. In order to not jeopardize that category, the US Army Chief of Chaplains mandated that chaplains should not be carrying weapons of any kind. It then falls on our Chaplain Assistants (56M) to be our “bodyguards” and security when we do ministry out in the field, especially in the battle zones. It is an immense blessing when your 56M is qualified and proficient with his or her weapon.
We put our knowledge of navigation and radio operation skills to good use today. We headed out to the woods at 0400H for an early morning LandNav after getting our coordinates and ETA at the rally point. Along the way, there were checkpoints that we were supposed to find and radioed to the base. We did find everything, except the rally point.
Day & Night Land Navigation
Lost in the Woods
Today we learned land navigation using a compass, a military map, and a protractor (GPS were verboten)! We practiced map reading in the classroom, then went out on the fields in front of the school house to count our paces (how many paces an individual makes in 100 meters distance) to aid us with our land navigation, especially when we have no electronics (such as a laser distance counter) to rely on.
Map Reading & Land Navigation
PMCS stands for “Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services” which are done before, during, and after any type of movement of a military vehicle or equipment. The NCO’s brought the vehicles to the parking lot and showed us how basic checks are performed.
We formed up in front of the school house at 0500H for an ealy movement to the range. Today’s adventure is conquering the “Victory Tower” by climbing up using the rope ladders and rappelling down. The NCO’s did a fantastic job helping and educating us during this course. It is to simplistic to say I’ve enjoyed it. So far this has been my favorite part of all the practical instructions.
Today we learned first aid. A group of NCO’s from a medical unit came to the school house with their gear and mannequins to show us basic life-saving techniques in and out of the battlefield. They also showed us how, in extreme necessity or lack of basic equipment, our uniforms can be used as life-saver!
First Aid Course