What is the most crucial component of the United States Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard? On shore or at sea, in tree lines or desert sands, above and below the water’s surface, the answer . . . the United States Sailor, Marine, and Coastguardsman. At the helm of fortifying this most essential element in service to our nation, you will find a Navy Chaplain. In fact, Chaplains have been called to serve in this capacity over the past 247 years; charting the course of spiritual readiness from the start of our sea services to this day.
Since 1775 Navy Chaplains have stood the watch that provided for, not only religious needs, but also confidential counseling, acting as embarked educators, and advising leadership on morale, ethics, and religion’s impact on operations.
The Chaplains Corps legacy is interwoven in U.S. Naval heritage. The core values of honor, courage, and commitment were formed under the leadership of a Navy Chaplain. Warrior toughness (being physically, mentally, spiritually fit), now taught as a common curriculum to all enlisted recruits and officer candidates, was co-designed by a psychologist, a Navy SEAL, and a Navy Chaplain. Resiliency training, faith studies, community service, and deck-plating (a term for chaplains visiting their people) all combine to boost readiness which in turn guards against serious issues like suicide, sexual assault, and domestic violence. Alongside the Chaplain Corps is the rate of Religious Program Specialist (RPs). RPs share in administrative, logistic, moral and emotional triage, and force protection. They oversee tools for hardiness of body, mind, and soul. Together the RP enhances a Navy Chaplain’s core capabilities of providing Divine Services, confidential counseling and care for all, and facilitation for diverse religious needs which protect the Free Exercise of Religion enshrined within the Constitution. The result is a spiritually resilient Sailor, Marine, or Coastguardsman strengthened for service world-wide.
Throughout the USS George H. W. Bush Carrier Strike Group are chaplains who support Carrier Air Wing 7, the Information Warfare Commander, Destroyer Squadron 26, and the Leyte Gulf. The Religious Ministry Team (RMT) charts the course for spiritual readiness by enabling these Sailors to lead with excellence anchored in deep moral values. RMT chaplains provide religious ministry consistent with the faith traditions of their members. They facilitate a robust religious program that meets the diverse faiths across the Strike Group and they care for all in a manner that builds spiritual resilience, mental and physical toughness, and strength of character. Furthermore, the RMT advises respective leaders on religious freedom, morale, ethical issues, cultural concerns, religious and community foreign relations, and are engaged in the commander’s decision making cycle.
Before and since deploying from Norfolk, VA, the Command Religious Ministries Department (CRMD) onboard GEORGE H.W. BUSH coordinated a strike group wide pre-deployment magazine with Media department, and two hangar bay based resilience rodeos with comprehensive caregivers for Sailors and families. They became the first East Coast ship to host the United Through Reading (UTR) Mobile Story Station on our pier and accomplished over 200 UTR sessions recording Sailors reading to their children back home. Underway, chaplains taught over 30 ‘About Face’ post disciplinary classes restoring Sailors to readiness and coordinated two community relations projects (COMRELS) in which 78 Sailors volunteered over 12 hours in Crete and Croatia, directly strengthening international alliances. The Bush’s Roman Catholic priest and Carrier Air Wing 7’s chaplain embarked on eight “Holy Helo” missions to ships across the strike group, providing worship and care. Sailors made over 4,650 morale calls from free library phones and the CRMD hosted the first carrier based United Services Organization (USO) Expeditionary Team in Crete, providing free meals to watch standers. Meanwhile with CRMD support, participation in Family Readiness Groups (FRG) back home quadrupled as Navy spouses learned about financial fitness and the cycle of deployment in a setting providing free, background checked childcare.
As the Navy celebrates the 247th birthday of its Chaplain Corps, this community’s resolve remains strong. Throughout the George H. W. Bush Strike Group, every Religious Ministry Team stands their watch, partnering with Navy resources to chart the waypoints and to keep fixed on the horizon so that our warfighters and their families are spiritually ready to stand their watch for our Nation and its allies. The Chaplain Corps has inherited a rich tradition of caring for all and the chaplains are ready to forge ahead with this principle. Wherever the United States Navy plots a course, and wherever our Sailors, Marines, and Coastguardsmen stand the watch, their chaplain will be there also charting the course for spiritual readiness.