Spiritual Resilience and Presence at 2021 Cadet Summer Training

10/28/2021  |  Chaplain (Maj.) Jeffrey Baker

Greetings Timberwolves! First, let me introduce myself as I’m relatively new to the division and then I’d like to share a few key experiences I had at Cadet Summer Training this summer.

My Background

I’ve been a Chaplain for nine years and with the 104th Division (LT) nine months. Before this assignment, I served with the 654th Regional Support Group, 476 Chemical Battalion and at Area Support Group -Kuwait participating in various exercises and missions such as: Warfighter, combat support training exercises, Operation Maple Resolve, and Operation Beyond the Horizon in Guatemala. In my current role, I provide support to the Division Chaplain in the duties of supervising brigade unit ministry teams and executing the commander’s religious support across the Division’s footprint.

And what a large footprint it is with many important missions in many states! One of these is the Cadet Summer Training (CST); not only critical for training the next set of leaders year after year but it is the largest, and it is conducted entirely at Ft. Knox, one of the furthest training outposts for the 104th’s Headquarters.

Cadet Summer Training 2021

I arrived June 15 as the Lead Chaplain for CST Basic Camp and stayed until early August. There were 12 other chaplains, four religious affairs personnel and 14 chaplain candidates from the U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard on ground too. In addition to the CST staff from the Reserve, the U.S. Army Cadet Command (USACC) chaplain section was comprised of Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Thomas Brooks, Chaplain (Maj.) Ronald Silva and Staff Sgts. Alicia Stuckey and Rufus Surles, all of whom prepared throughout the year for CST and provided leadership for the entire four-month duration. Task Force Rifles of the Third Cavalry Regiment of 3rd Corps, Fort Hood, were training enablers for the cadets and had their own UMT. Brigade and below have unit ministry teams not sections.

We ourselves received religious-support specific training during those two months at CST: weekly trainings for all chaplain cadre and continuous mentoring training experience for chaplain candidates assigned to each Advanced or Basic Camp Regiment of Cadets.

Coordination was key. We worked directly with and for the Cadet Command Chaplain section. Each chaplain and chaplain candidate team had a responsibility to Cadet Regiment cadre and Advanced Camp and Basic Camp lead chaplains were part of Cadet Command Brigade Task Force leadership as well.

Each chaplain team worked with their own regiment to determine “the how” of religious support. Ministry of presence with cadets is also key through all aspects of training: ruck marches, suicide prevention training, relationship skills training, confidential counseling. Each candidate conducted multiple field services and gave the Invocation for their regiment’s graduation.

We also provided the following support to those who were on ground. Field and chapel services included the following:

Wednesday/Sundays were Protestant, Catholic, and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; and Fridays were Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist services. Counseling support, confession, Red Cross message support and religious accommodation (meals) were staples for us too.

My Takeaways

This is probably the most immersive experience the Army has available to train chaplain candidates providing religious support with 1:1 supervision over more than a month. This shapes the future of the Army Chaplain Corps and also the Army leadership who work with cadets at various levels; newly commissioned second lieutenants and professors of military science from across the country.

Chaplains work for commanders and are technically supervised by senior chaplains at higher echelons. Normally, the primary relationship is with the commander more than the supervising chaplains. Within CST, the supervisory chaplain relationships are stronger typically because they are directly present over multiple continuous months while the command teams often transition every 2-3 weeks.

I’d like to give a shout out to my fellow 108th Chaplains for their work during CST: Chaplain

Maj.) Walter McCall from the 98th Training Division who supported two regiments of Advanced Camp, Chaplain (Capt.) Phillip Callahan of the 104th’s 2nd Bridgade who spent two weeks of annual training supporting 104th Soldiers and cadre, and Chaplain (Col.) Todd Wolf of 108th Training Command who was also out there during AT supporting the 104th Soldiers and cadre, and, while being led by Holy Spirit, joined in on the drums after I preached my third sermon on King David.

And finally, this opportunity is like no other and a critical experience for both chaplain personnel and other CST participants. View the video created by USACC public affairs that captured the essence of our contributions at the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDs) site; https://www.dvidshub.net/video/807432/religious-services-field-cadet-summer-training-2021.

Deputy Division Chaplain, 104th Division (LT)
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