Chaplaincy

Priests Who Join Military as Chaplains ‘Answering a Call Within a Call’

CNS:

Father Ben Garrett said he has “never felt more useful in my life” as a priest than as a Navy chaplain meeting the pastoral and sacramental needs of service members.

“Being a priest in the military is extremely fulfilling,” he said. “Not only is it a need for our people, but it’s also a great blessing for the priest himself.

“Our men and women in uniform take on great sacrifices on behalf of our country, and they need to be taken care of spiritually,” he told Catholic News Service…

Read on here.

 

Church

Mobile Churches to be Erected in the Arctic

Wrangel Island

Two mobile military churches will be brought by trains to the Arctic Circle, where bases of the Russian Army will be deployed, reported the head of the Eastern Military District press service Colonel Alexander Gordeyev to RIA-Novosti. “Two churches will be erected on Cape Schmidt and Wrangel Island.[i] Such a decision was made following a working tour to the region by army general Arkady Bakhin, First Deputy Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation.” said Gordeyev.

At the present time two 40-ton containers with the churches have arrived by rail from the western part of Russia to Port Vanino (Khabarovsk Territory). The churches are to be erected in September. In recent years Russia has actively started development of its northern territories, including hydrocarbon production, as well as development of the North Sea Route which is more and more becoming an alternative to the traditional routes from Europe to Asia. A complex of measures, including those of military character, are intended for the defense of Russia’s interests in the Arctic, given the increased attention to the region by NATO member countries.

According to the Russian Federation’s Ministry for Extraordinary Situations, the total value of the mineral resources concentrated in the Arctic region of Russia exceeds 30 trillion dollars. Ministry experts believe that the center of gravity of Russia’s oil and gas production will gradually move to the shelf of the Arctic seas. Cape (Otto) Schmidt (“Mys Shmidta”) is a cape on the shore of the Chukchi Sea, near the De Long Strait. Wrangel Island is situated in the Arctic Ocean between the East Siberian and the Chukchi seas. Administratively, they belong to the Iultin District of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug (District). Wrangel Island is a part of a nature reserve with the same name and is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Source.

 

Culture

$1,000,000,000 To Boost US Military In Europe

Just in case you were not aware, NATO has some 28 member countries that are supposed to protect themselves against Russia.

The Wall Street Journal:

Warsaw—President Barack Obama said he would send more U.S. military equipment and increase joint exercises in Poland as he proposed a new $1 billion fund Tuesday to bolster European security.

The moves come as an extension of the White House campaign to reassure anxious Eastern European allies that the U.S. would act if what it sees as Russian aggression in Ukraine spreads to other parts of the region.

Mr. Obama also promised further deployments of American forces to Eastern Europe and said the proposed fund would pay for storing more military equipment and expanding exercises in Poland.

The fund—which the White House announced as Mr. Obama arrived in Poland at the start of a four-day visit to Europe—would require approval from Congress. It would pay for the increased military exercises and stepped-up U.S. presence in Europe, including further navy deployments to the Black and Baltic seas.

As Eastern European allies have grown fearful of Russia, the U.S. has sought to reassure them through an expanded series of exercises and deployments, including fighter jets and a company of about 150 soldiers in Poland.

Mr. Obama said shortly after arriving in Poland that European security is the “cornerstone of our own security and it is sacrosanct.”

“It is a commitment that is particularly important at this point in time,” Mr. Obama said in an airport hangar with U.S. and Polish troops.

Poland has been pushing for a larger deployment of U.S. forces as a deterrent after Russia moved to annex the Ukrainian region of Crimea and amid unrest in eastern Ukraine that the West accuses Russia of instigating. Russia denies starting the turmoil.

Polish President Bronisław Komorowski said the U.S. and Poland were “on the same page” and promised that his country would increase its military spending to 2% of its gross domestic product. The 2% GDP spending target is the official North Atlantic Treaty Organization standard, but few countries meet it.

A NATO military officer confirmed that most Russian troops have now pulled back from the Ukrainian border, a move the U.S. has said will help de-escalate tensions.

“Everyone is interested in developing as good a relationship with Russia as possible,” Mr. Komorowski said.

Mr. Obama agreed but insisted the U.S. wouldn’t be “sacrificing principle in pursuit of relations.”…

Russia didn’t immediately comment on the proposal, but officials have warned that any expansion of NATO military presence in Eastern Europe would constitute a threat to Russian security and lead the Kremlin to consider deploying more weapons of its own along its western borders. Russia has already been building up military forces in the Kaliningrad region, an enclave between Lithuania and Poland…

More here.

 

Church

George Washington and Army Chaplains

James Caldwell, the “soldier parson”

On Fr Peter Preble’s blog, yesterday:

On this day, February 7, 1776, General George Washington notifies his troops of a new policy regarding chaplains’ pay. He’d advocated for better treatment of his chaplains, and he’d succeeded!Shortly after Washington assumed command of the American army during the summer of 1775, the Continental Congress approved its first act regarding chaplains. This act set chaplains’ salaries at $20 per month just above that of lieutenants. Washington was unimpressed. He wrote the President of Congress, noting that the pay was “too Small to encourage men of Abilities.” He asked that a way be found to increase chaplains’ salaries.

Congress approved Washington’s request. It passed an act providing for the appointment of one chaplain to every two regiments. The chaplains had more responsibility, but their pay was also increased. Instead of $20 per month, they were to receive a little more than $33 per month. Washington announced the change on February 7, 1776.

After a few months, Washington decided that the system (unfortunately) did not work for logistical reasons. If regiments were separated due to the demands of war, one regiment might find itself without a chaplain for a while. Washington wrote Congress again. He asked that chaplains be assigned one per regiment, with a salary “competent to their support.”

Congress initially agreed, but the new policy did not last. Eventually, fiscal concerns caused chaplains to be assigned one per brigade. A brigade was a much larger unit of the army; it could be composed of several regiments. In other words, there were fewer chaplains, overall, in the army.

Washington objected again. Interestingly, his main concern was for religious liberty. He wanted many chaplains of a variety of faiths. If there were fewer chaplains overall, then, by definition, there were fewer choices for his men. They were more likely, he wrote Congress, to be compelled “to a mode of Worship, which they do not profess.” Washington preferred the old system, with more chaplains and a greater likelihood that the men could have “a Chaplain of their own religious Sentiments.”

Perhaps what is most interesting about all of these events is the great importance that Washington placed upon the presence of chaplains in his army. He thought they served a valuable function, and he advocated for them consistently. Remember that Washington often faced shortages of supplies and funds. Yet he thought it important to spend some of these valuable funds on chaplains.

 

Church

The Ministry of an Orthodox Army Chaplain

Have Icon, Will Travel:

At 11:20 p.m. on April 3, 2010, a loud explosion broke the night silence around the main chapel on Bagram Air Field (BAF) in Afghanistan.

I was putting on my vestments in preparation for the midnight Paschal services. A few of the attendees rushed outside the wooden building to see what was happening. Then, two minutes later, a second shell landed so close that it rocked the chapel as if an earthquake had hit us.

At that point, the intrepid souls outside were summoned back inside the chapel to at least a modicum of safety under our wooden roof, which was better than open air. And I confronted my own mortality with a calm serenity that, frankly, surprised me. Was this a “creeping” rocket or mortar bombardment that would take out our chapel next—and those of us in it? If so, there was nothing we could do about it except continue to prepare for the Feast of Feasts: the situation was truly in God’s hands.

My first thought after the second shell exploded was of my family—the shock and grief they would have to endure if, in the next few minutes, I became a casualty of war.

My second thought was more hopeful. Here I was, vesting for the Divine Liturgy on the greatest night of the Christian year, putting on the “whole armor of God” as befits a priest, in the presence of U.S. and Coalition soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, who were in a God-forsaken corner of the world to restore justice and peace after the atrocities of 9/11. What better way to die than with our boots on, literally, and gathered together to celebrate the conquest of sin, death, and injustice by our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ?

Well, the third shell never arrived, praise God, and we proceeded to celebrate Pascha with a joy—and relief—that none of us had ever known.

That was my last night on my last 30-day tour in Afghanistan, after five years back on active duty as a U.S. Army chaplain for the express purpose of visiting Orthodox U.S. and Coalition forces in the combat areas two or three times each year. I retired from the Army, as planned, two months later, after 24 and a half years of service, delighted to be alive and thankful for the unique, unexpected opportunities with which I had been blessed.

A New Military Ministry

Now, I have a confession. On September 11, 2001, I did . . . nothing! Not by choice, to be sure, but owing to circumstances. When the second hijacked U.S. civilian airplane hit the World Trade Center in New York City at 9:03 a.m., I immediately donned my military uniform—the old “woodland” camouflage battle dress uniform—and waited for the inevitable phone call from Fort A.P. Hill. The armory of my Engineer Brigade, 28th Infantry Division (Mechanized), in the Virginia Army National Guard, for which I served part-time as chaplain, was the Emergency Operations Center for more than half of the great Commonwealth of Virginia. Surely, I thought, we’d be mobilized to prepare for possible attacks by the then unknown terrorists elsewhere in our country, perhaps even in Virginia.

Minutes after the third hijacked airplane crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m., I called my brigade commander and learned to my dismay that we had received no alert, no mobilization—no nothin’!

So I sat by the silent phone in front of a television set, waiting in vain until evening, when I traveled to my Orthodox parish church in Falls Church, Virginia, to offer a panikhida memorial service for all the victims of that fateful day.

But it was precisely 9/11 that, a few years later in 2005, launched a new military ministry in the combat areas in southwest Asia.

Few but Demanding

The Eastern Orthodox demographics in the U.S. armed forces are rather paltry—only an estimated 0.3 percent (that’s point three) of our uniformed personnel. But along with the Roman Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus, we’re a major, historic, unique “faith group” with unique religious needs and obligations that only clergy of our faith identity and endorsement can serve. Thus, each of these faith groups is deemed HD/LD: a “high demand/low density” religion—in other words, at once too small and too unique for chaplains assigned at random to provide for their religious needs.

To meet the religious needs of our Eastern Orthodox personnel for the “Holy Mysteries”—the sacraments of Holy Communion, Confession, and Anointing of the Sick and Wounded—especially in combat areas, the U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains, a two-star general officer, decided to call me back to active-duty service upon the request of Metropolitan Herman (Swaiko), first hierarch and military chaplain endorser for the Orthodox Church in America. Though a recently promoted full-colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, I hardly expected this. Why fetch a chaplain who had served only part-time for most of his military career (after an initial tour of active duty in the 1980s) to serve in a senior, coveted colonel position, when there were plenty of regular Army colonels who had served their entire careers on active duty, with the multiple relocations and frequent uprooting of their families, including overseas assignments, that such service entailed?

But the Chief had already summoned a rabbi in the U.S. Army Reserve for the same purpose of going “downrange,” as we say, or into harm’s way, several times each year for the principal Jewish holy days. I would be Chaplain (Colonel) Ira Kronenberg’s Orthodox Christian counterpart.

When I first heard the news, I recalled the memorable line of Winston Churchill, one of my boyhood heroes, when he was summoned by King George VI to become Prime Minister of war-torn Great Britain in May 1940: “I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial.”

Do read on here.

I certainly have enjoyed spending the last few minutes reading this well written presentation by Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster. And from the conclusion:

Unchanging Truth

The atrocities of 9/11 have changed America and perhaps the world forever and in unexpected ways. Now that I have retired from active military service and reflect on my wartime experiences as a chaplain, I can appreciate more than ever the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin during a critical impasse at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787: “I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men.” And I take even greater comfort in one truth that, for Christians, remains a steadfast hope in times of crisis and trouble: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

 

Culture

It’s Taken an American to Expose the Brutal Truth of Britain’s Military Decline

The Telegraph:

Harrier on aircraft carrier
None of these, any more. (Photo: EPA)

Robert Gates’s devastating critique of Britain’s military decline since the Government’s ill-considered 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review is as long overdue as it is welcome.

The former US Defence Secretary, who served under both the Bush and Obama administrations having previously enjoyed a glittering career at the CIA, says the “fairly substantial reductions” to the defence budget undertaken by the Coalition mean that Britain can no longer viewed as a “full partner” by the US.

So far as our national security is concerned, this is simply devastating. Close military cooperation between Britain and the world’s only superpower if essential if we are to stand any chance of defending ourselves, as well as protecting our interests overseas.

But – as I have argued consistently since the SDSR cuts were announced – the Government has blithely pressed ahead with cutting the MOD’s budget without giving the slightest consideration to the damage it has inflicted to our defence capabilities, and the disastrous effect this would inevitably have on our standing as a leading military power.

In response to Mr Gates’s comments, the Ministry of Defence has trotted out its usual formula for defending the indefensible – Britain still has the fourth largest defence budget in the world,  still retains powerful military capabilities, blah, blah, blah…