Chap. (Col.) James Palmer, Jr., Chap. (Col.) Steve Peck, oldest member of the Chaplain Corps locally, Pvt. Noah McMullen, youngest member and Command Sgt. Maj. Evelin Montealegre cut the Chaplain Corps 247th Anniversary birthday cake at The Heart and Home of the Army Chaplaincy on July 29. (Photo by Mel Slater) (Photo Credit: Courtesy)

Chaplain Corps celebrates 247th Anniversary

By Mel Slater, Institute for Religious Leadership

“We need chaplains.”

Gen. George Washington spoke those words to the Continental Congress 247 years ago and on July 29, 1775, the Army Chaplain Corps was established.

The Army Institute for Religious Leadership celebrated this historic event with Regimental Week activities here on Fort Jackson from July 25-29.

“We celebrate our 247th Birthday, may we cherish the legacy of our Corps and, may we be inspired by those whose shoulders we stand on and may we continue to serve as a reminder of God’s presence to Soldiers and Families, wherever the call may be,” said IRL Deputy Director and Commandant, Chap. (Col.) James Palmer, Jr.

IRL kicked off Chaplain Corps 247th Birthday activities with a Regimental Run at the school’s campus at Fort Jackson, South Carolina on July 26. The IRL team and Family members enjoyed organization day activities July 26 that included games for all ages, face painting, music and food.

The Chaplain Corps 247th Anniversary Regimental Ball was held at the Fort Jackson NCO Club on July 27.

Fort Jackson Commanding General, Brig. Gen. Patrick Michaelis was the guest speaker for the ball.

“It’s better to have something special to celebrate. It is the Chaplain Corps’ birthday. July 29, 247 years since the first chaplains served in the Continental Army and tonight, we draw inspiration from that long history and celebrate what this corps provide for our Soldiers, past, present and future,” Michaelis said.

After his speech at the Chaplain Corps 247th Anniversary Regimental Ball, Michaelis was presented The Order of Aaron and Hur by IRL Commandant, Chap. (Col.) James Palmer, Jr. and Command Sgt. Maj. Evelin Montealegre.

The award was signed by Army Chief of Chaplains, Chap. (Maj. Gen.) Thomas Solhjem.

The Order of Aaron and Hur is presented to non-branch individuals who have contributed significantly to the Army Chaplain Corps. The award is based on Exodus 17:8-13:

“The warriors of Amalek come to fight against the people of Israel at Rephidim. Moses instructed Joshua to issue a call to arms to the Israelites to fight the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. And as long as Moses held up the rod in his hands, Israel prevailed: but whenever he rested his arms at his sides, the soldiers of Amalek prevailed. Moses’ arms finally became too tired to hold up the rod any longer; so Aaron and Hur rolled a stone for him to sit on, and they stood on each side, holding up his hands until sunset. As a result, Joshua and his troops overcame the army of Amalek.”

Chaplain Corps Regimental Week activities continued with a Spouse's Luncheon at the Fort Jackson Golf Course, on July 28, hosted by Faith Palmer, spouse of Chap. Palmer.

A wreath-laying ceremony was held at Chaplain Corps Memorial Garden on the IRL campus on July 29. The Memorial Garden includes a water fountain and wall structure that holds the names of chaplains and religious affairs specialists who have given the ultimate sacrifice in wars, conflicts and other hostile actions from the Revolutionary War to present.

A cake cutting ceremony was held in the courtyard at the IRL campus on July 29. Taking part in the cake cutting ceremony were the oldest member of the Chaplain Corps on Fort Jackson, Chap. (Col.) Steve Peck and the youngest Soldiers, Pvt. Noah McMullen. Montealegre and Palmer also participated in the cake cutting.

Chaplain Palmer gave a special thank you, during his remarks, to the 282d Army Band for their participation in Regimental Week.

"I want to acknowledge the professionalism of the 282nd Army Band. They've been helping us celebrate all week, so let's give them a round of applause."

Other celebrations were being held by Chaplain Corps organizations worldwide and well wishes were coming from around the Army. The Chief of Chaplains sent an anniversary message to the corps:

“As we celebrate our corps birthday on July 29th, I want to thank you for carrying out the legacy of those first chaplains in that Continental Army. Let us build on our historic past as we look forward to a heroic future. For God and Country, Live the Call,” said Solhjem.

The U.S. Army Chaplain Corps is one of the oldest and smallest branches in the Army. Since the War for Independence, chaplains have served in every American was. Today, there are some 1,300 active duty Army chaplains and 1,200 in the reserve components, representing five major faith groups; Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist.

The Chaplain Corps 247th Anniversary Regimental Week observance at Fort Jackson was a resounding success.