U.S. Army Institute for Religious Leadership Deputy Director and Commandant, Chaplain (Col.) James Palmer Jr. and Command Sgt. Maj. Evelin Montealegre, salute after placing a wreath at the institute’s Memorial Garden Wall, July 26.  (Photo by Mel Slater)

Chaplain Corps celebrates 248-year anniversary

By Mel Slater, Institute for Religious Leadership


“Many years ago, I recall a former chief of chaplains once said the following: ‘We must remember those of our branch, both Chaplains and Religious Affairs Specialists alike, because each of them has contributed greatly in their own way to the excellence and success of who we are today’,” said Chaplain (Col.) James Palmer Jr., U.S. Army Institute for Religious Leadership commandant, “For 248 years, chaplains and religious affairs specialists have selflessly served God and our nation. This is why we take the time to celebrate who we are.”

On July 29, 1775, the Continental Congress established the Army Chaplain Corps. The Continental Congress also authorized one chaplain for each regiment of the Continental Army. This date is recognized as the formal anniversary of the Army Chaplain Corps. The corps is one of the oldest and smallest branches in the Army. Since the Revolutionary War, chaplains have served in every American war.

Past, present and future members of the Chaplain Corps and friends came to Fort Jackson to celebrate the birthday during Regimental Week activities from July 25-28. Army Deputy Chief of Chaplains, Chaplain (Brig. Gen.) William “Bill” Green and Regimental Sergeant Major, Sgt. Maj. Meaghan Bicklein were in attendance during the activities.

The week began with a run, July 25. The USO also came out at “o-dark-thirty” to help celebrate and support the more the 250 Soldiers with refreshments at the end of the run. Family and friends joined in later to take part in organization day activities filled with fellowship, fun and food. The Chaplain Corps Museum reopened July 25 after several months of renovations.

Other events scheduled during the week include the renaming of the institute’s auditorium honor of Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Matthew Augustus Zimmerman Jr. In 1990, he became the 18th Chief of Chaplains of the Army and the first African American to hold the position. A cake-cutting ceremony will take place tonight during the regimental ball held in in downtown Columbia.

“Regimental week was a tremendous success. It gave us as a Corps an opportunity to reflect upon our successes and accomplishments and to look toward the future,” said Palmer. “The Chaplain Corps has a rich and historic past. Regimental week provided us an opportunity to celebrate our legacy.”