I headed home today after closeout formation at 1500H and reached Lexington, KY at around 2200H. I will spend the night here, and then continue with my travel back to Illinois so that I can be in the parish this weekend and be able to celebrate Masses with my parishioners on Sunday.
Phase I was different from CIMT in a lot of ways: I found the cadres more respectful of the students now that they have been “militarized”, there were less “study group sessions” during the weekends, the “accountability checks” were less intrusive, etc. I was not sure whether these changes were due to the fact that the student-chaplains were now considered to have reached a certain status after CIMT, or somebody in the past classes complained, or the new composition of the class and cadres brought a new way of doing things and relating with one another.
Personally I found it challenging, as a reservist joining a class that already spent almost a month together, to know all my classmates’ names and personal stories then leave them after two weeks.
Oftentimes chaplains have to lead worship services at a moment’s notice, when the schedule of the troops, for example, allowed only for a few minutes break. Sometimes these worship services were not even indoors but on the tarmac, the parking lot, in the middle of the forest, etc. Chaplains were taught to be ready for these circumstances, after all, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20, NIV).
CH Cho leading a field service
This morning’s event involved going to the confidence (obstacle course) and this visit took the place of our daily PT. A senior chaplain was witnessed having fun pouring water on the soil to make it muddier. So far, so good and no one got hurt.
The CH-BOLC Class 03-2010 were already immersed in their “Prayer Breakfast” preparations when I joined them for Phase 1, so I really had no contribution to the group in terms of volunteer hours and I really felt bad for that. However, they understood that I was coming in just for a two-week course (Phase 1) so they really did not expect a lot from me. Also, I was not the only one with this kind of arrangement. I admired the good work they have done to make the Prayer Breakfast a success. Although I could not remember what the speaker said, I remember that his words were gratefully received. Nonetheless it was a wonderful time for fellowship.
With a PNG Chaplain
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