Unit Ministry Team provides religious support at Cadet Summer Training mission


Chaplain Candidate, 1st Lt. Sean Fitzgerald, provides ministry of presence to two Cadets while they pull security at the entry point to their patrol base, June 20. Fitzgerald stopped to talk with Cadets in all eight fighting positions in the patrol base, during field operations at the Cadet Summer Training mission held on Fort Knox, Ky.

Fort Knox, Ky. — From late-May to mid-August more than 7,000 Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Cadets rotate into and out of FT Knox.   They attend one of two “camps”:  Basic or Advanced.  Basic Camp is for students early in their college careers and focuses on the basics of what it means to be a Soldier and an Army Officer.  One of the goals of Basic Camp is to introduce the Cadets to Army culture through traditional training from Drill Sergeants as well as providing opportunities for them to lead their peers.  Typically this is the point in which a Cadet determines if the Army is for them or not.  Advanced Camp is a pre-commissioning requirement normally attended by 3rd and 4th year ROTC Cadets.  Their camp focuses more on leadership skills and problem solving scenarios in a field environment.  All of this is to help prepare them to be future Army 2LTs.  As they say here at Fort Knox, the ROTC program has been “making gold bars (2LT’s bars) since 1916!”

Cadets wear no rank and are called “Cadets.”  They come for about 30 days each and are part of a regiment.  To train, supervise, and drill these 10,000 Cadets requires an additional 5,000 cadre who come here from a variety of places.  Large numbers of Army Reserve Soldiers rotate to Fort Knox to support CST as well as the Professors of Military Science from all ROTC programs, along with other support Solider from across the active duty forces.  To care for the Religious Support of these 15,000 Cadets and Soldiers there are only three Active Duty Chaplains and their assistants stationed here at Fort Knox with Cadet Command!  Obviously, they would be overwhelmed if they were alone, so instead they bring in help.  This year, 11 Army Reserve Chaplains were here as supervisors and trainers to the 13 Chaplain Candidates that came to Fort Knox to support CST.  This special team of Chaplains are called Chaplain Trainers (CTs) and most of them are captains.  These trainers come for the whole summer so they have longevity and maximum impact upon the Candidates they are supervising.  This also benefits their professional development as they get to experience ministry as a Brigade Chaplain, a role they will fulfill someday.  Their mission is to coach, mentor, and train the Chaplain Candidates they are assigned to in the various regiments of Cadets.

1st Lt. Shakeer McNair, a Chaplain Candidate with the 160th Military Police Battalion in Tallahassee Fl, reads from the Bible during a field service for her cadets at the Cadet Summer Training mission at Fort Knox, Ky., July 17.

A Chaplain Candidate (CC) is a seminary student who is working towards becoming an Army Chaplain.  They are not Chaplains yet and so do not wear their faith group identifier (like the Christian cross); instead they wear rank on their patrol caps and a different identifier above their names which identify them as CCs.   CST becomes one of their required practicums they must complete as CC’s in order to someday apply to be accessed as a Chaplain.  What is unique about this practicum is the CCs are imbedded directly into a regiment, comprised of 400-600 Cadets, where they get to function just like a Battalion Chaplain would.  A regiment’s training time is 30-31 days so these CCs typically come just for one cycle, although some stay longer to do a second regiment. CCs are in their middle 20’s to early 40’s and are 2LT’s or 1LT’s.  Their rank and age allow them to enjoy the same rank and age difference they will someday have as a Battalion Chaplain.

1st Lt. Yonghwan Kim, a Chaplain Candidate with the 426th Civil Affairs Battalion from Upland Calif., joins his Cadets in the gas chamber on July 19 at Fort Knox, Ky. Courtesy photo

During CST there were a range of religious faiths represented by both the CCs and CTs.  Aside from Protestant and Catholic Chaplains, this year they had a Jewish Rabbi Chaplain along with an Islamic Chaplain Candidate.  For other faiths like Buddhism and Latter Day Saints, they had faith group leaders from the community come in to lead services for Cadets.  In doing so, the Chaplain Corps is ensuring the free exercise of religion for all the Cadets.

The tremendous end results are that each CC along with their CT are the ones doing the bulk of the ministry in each regiment.  Religious Support like:  ministry of presence, field services, counselings, and the more typical Wednesday night and Sunday night services in garrison.  The role of the Army Reserve Chaplain Supervisors along with the Active Duty UMTs becomes one to equip, enable, and prayerfully support these CTs and their CCs.   It is a mission done with excellence for God and Country:  “Pro Deo et Patria!”

Some Religious Support stats from CST 2016:

  • 2152 Counseling sessions
  • 262 Field services seeing 5966 Cadets in attendance
  • 74 Garrison Cadet Services seeing 5902 Cadets in attendance
  • 1600 Ministry of Presence visits by CCs and CTs
  • 226 Word/Thought for the Days shared with leadership, cadre, and others
  • 941 Cadets attended Protestant Bible Studies on Wednesday and Sunday nights after services.

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