A unit ministry team listens to a briefing during a pause in recent training. The unit ministry team, that consists of a chaplain and religious affairs specialist, provides religious service support to Soldiers and their Families. They will go where Soldiers go and experience what Soldiers experience.  (Photo by Paul Stamps)

Institute sends forth new religious service support graduates after big week

By Mel Slater, Institute for Religious Leadership

While the Army Chaplain Corps Regimental Week celebrated its 248th birthday July 25-28, the week of Aug. 14-18 was a big for the Institute for Religious Leadership for different reasons. It was just as large in terms of the future contribution to the Chaplain Corps and the Army.

The week featured multiple graduations of chaplains and religious affairs specialists who will soon be joining or re-joining units around the world to provide religious service support to America’s Soldiers and their Families.

It was also the first big week for the new institute leadership that took over in July.

“It’s been a busy week and we’ve had multiple graduations, kids are back in South Carolina schools, the Chaplains Basic Officer Leadership Course Dining Out, early mornings and late nights,” said institute commandant, Chaplain (Col.) Louis Deltufo.

The chaplain leader course is the institute’s flagship course. The CHBOLC Class 23-002 graduation was the culminating event for the week, held Aug. 18. The course held its dining-out at the Fort Jackson NCO Club, Aug. 16. Spouses of students in Class 23-002 met with Chaplain Corps spouses to receive a welcome and to learn more about the Army, and the chaplain Family, Aug. 15-18. Course students and their Families also gathered at Fort Jackson’ Patriots Park for fun, food and fellowship, Aug. 14.

“Today we are celebrating your accomplishments, and we’re not just celebrating your accomplishments, but we are getting ready to send you forth,” said Army Deputy Chief of Chaplains, Chaplain (Brig. Gen.) Bill Green. “It’s one thing to receive all of this knowledge and education and go through the experiences that you’ve had. But now it’s time to move on, to move forth.”

Soldiers in the Religious Affairs Specialist Senior Leader Course Class 23-002 also graduated, Aug. 17. These are the newest senior noncommissioned officers of the Chaplain Corps.

Religious affairs specialist, Advanced Individual Training classes 23-012 and 23-013 also graduated, Aug. 17. These Soldiers will soon become an integral part of the unit ministry team that consists of a chaplain and religious affairs specialist. These teams go where Soldiers go and experience what Soldiers experience. They see to the religious service support needs of those Soldiers whether they share the same religious beliefs or not. If the UMT cannot see to a Soldiers religious support needs, they will find the support needed among other Chaplain Corps members.

The seemingly prophetic message of the day applied to all graduates.

“OK team, you guys look good, you sound good. Before you go out to the force, there’s only one thing we have left to do, let’s graduate.” said Sgt Maj. Frederick Cohen, Task Force Integrator sergeant major.

A graduation for chaplains and religious affairs specialists in the Combat Medical Ministry/Emergency Medical Ministry Course was also held by the Chaplain Corps Graduate school, Aug. 17. The course is a combination of religious affairs specialists and chaplains training to provide short-term trauma intervention for combat casualties, stress and emergent/urgent care environments.

In addition to the graduation activity at the institute, staff members of the Senate Armed Services Committee visited the school as part of their visit to Fort Jackson, Aug. 17. They were greeted by Deltufo and Command Sgt. Maj. Evelin Montealegre, met briefly with Green and were given a brief tour of the campus and discussed training received by chaplain candidates and religious affairs specialists AIT Soldiers.

The week would not have been complete without an organization day type event. Enter the Chief of Staff Welcome Offsite.

The new institute chief of staff, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Emmitt Furner hosted a meet and greet with lunch for all school staff at Heise Pond to provide an informal setting for a team building exercise, Aug. 18.

It was a good time had by all to round out a good week for the institute and Chaplain Corps.