Military Chaplains Say It’s All About Presence

When Chaplain (CPT) Robert Boyles was in U.S. Army Ranger School training, he met four strangers he later would baptize. But when the weather turned 15 degrees that night, Boyles was simply another Ranger in training, stomping his feet in his Army boots to keep warm.

Boyles and the others were in the Mountain phase of an arduous 61 days in training at Fort Benning’s Ranger Brigade. They’d already endured a 12-mile road march carrying 35-pound rucksacks and weapons as well as intense military instruction, challenging patrols and a grueling physical training (PT) test together.

During their cold circuit in the mountains, Boyles and a few men talked. Unbeknownst to many soldiers, Boyles was a chaplain in training — sliding on his belly in the mud under a fence of barbed wire with the other trainees and running toward whirring helicopters in the middle of the night with his unit. Being a chaplain meant Boyles would be there at the end, earning his Ranger tab and graduating with the elite.

Why? Because chaplaincy is all about being present.

“Chaplains pay their dues,” says Chaplain (Major) Philip Kramer, senior chaplain in the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigades at Fort Benning. “The cloth we wear is the same cloth our fellow soldiers wear. It is earned with blood, sweat and tears, and paid in the form of hard work for the purpose of ministering.”

It’s why Chaplain (CPT) Robert Davis, an Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade chaplain, continuously jumps with young airborne trainees off 250-foot towers formerly built for the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

“We want to be constantly available to our constituents, which means doing what they are doing in order to earn the respect to reach them,” Davis says.

Currently 37 chaplains and 38 religious affairs specialists are serving the religious and pastoral needs of thousands of soldiers, families and authorized civilian personnel at the military base. They are the Fort Benning Unit Ministry Team under the watchful eye of Chaplain (COL) Robert Hart, a Southern Baptist who heads the Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE)/Garrison Chaplain, Religious Support Office.

They are in charge of 25 weekend services and 40 weekday programs in 15 facilities.

“In the Army, many soldiers have spiritual experiences,” Boyles says. “Knowing a chaplain means knowing someone they can talk to.”

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Source: Baptist Press