Collectively there are 18 chaplains that represent the 108th TC, and for many of you there is a supplemental chaplain in the active components that you support. As a leader, individual, and someone with responsibilities in life, how often do you utilize the chaplain? In many cases the chaplain is typically a reactive resource to aid individuals once something has occurred. Chaplains however can be a preventative resource for units, by helping in areas such as suicidality, SHARP, ethics, leadership, and communication.
Before I address the value of utilizing the chaplain, let me address certain misconceptions about the chaplain. From day one chaplains are trained and exposed to operating in a pluralistic environment. Often judgmental attitudes, fears of evangelical approaches, the ability to relate, everything is religion based, and even diversity concerns cause individuals to overlook seeking out a chaplain for support. While no profession is perfect, U.S. Army chaplains uphold a call to service, and understand that this calling is among a highly diverse population. Embracing this call, chaplains ensure the free exercise of religion for “all”. Religious and non-religious views and beliefs are a protected freedom, and the chaplain is positioned to help, not hinder those views.
A simple motto of the chaplain corps is, “perform or provide”. In the rare instance that a chaplain cannot perform religious support, he or she will find the best solution to provide the means to meet religious needs. Let me tell you a little secret about chaplains: As social and political policy influences laws and regulations for the military, chaplains have long been providing services to those in need regardless of personal views, orientations, beliefs, race, and so forth. Our commitment to serving those who serve is greater than any bias that exists. And by the way, sensitive issues or topics are not likely to embarrass the chaplain. Our relatability does not come from always being a chaplain, but to the years of counseling that many of us endure. I will just say that in my twelve years as a chaplain, the Jerry Springer show seems tame compared to some of my counselees.
When you hear chaplain the first thought is “pastor,” “religion,” or someone associated connection to a faith group. Those are not incorrect thoughts, but what about suicide prevention, SHARP, ethics, counseling, leadership, communication, resource management, and numerous other specialties? Chaplains by regulation have to enter with a minimum master degree of 72 semester hours, with many of us holding second or third master level degrees in counseling, and other areas, as well as doctoral degrees. Most likely the chaplain in your direct chain is a SME in some area other than religion. Depending on their longevity in the military, there is potential that they are SMEs in several areas. Chaplains having a broad background in the areas mentioned can also be added as support alongside the individuals that manage specific Army programs (suicide prevention, SHARP, ASAP, etc.).
One final point to add is that chaplains have 100% confidentiality in our direct communication with others. The importance is there are no exceptions to the rule. No one can require the chaplain to share privileged communication. If you need help (for any reason) but doesn’t want others to know, lean on your chaplain, and he or she can share in your burden without ever violating your privacy.
Now that you know your chaplain potentially has an untapped skill set, is he or she being underutilized? Could they be more engaged in training, counseling, and other areas? When developing training plans from the company level to the 2-Star level, leaning on your chaplain can be a valuable addition to executing effective, needed training that might just proactively prevent issues in the unit, rather than reactively repairing them afterward.