Ministry in the Mojave

Three days at the FOB at Fort Irwin’s National Training Center in California. Our 3rd Brigade is here. We are preparing to enter the “box” which is an area the size of Rhode Island. Our brigade will engage in force on force “combat” to train and test our skills and total teamwork. We’re spending several days drawing all the battle gear we need.

There is SSOOOO much to do to prepare that my head is dizzy. Sometimes I feel like I’m not “tracking” or that I’m still a bit behind the curve. But I know my mission and how it nests with the Commander’s mission and how his nests with Brigade mission. At supper and after supper tonight I was able to brief the Squadron Commander on ministry that’s been happening. He is pleased. Said I was “spot on” with what our UMT has been doing. That means a lot coming from the Commander, since religious support is his program. Helps me feel I’m succeeding.

Today, Brigade UMTs provided three different worship services in a tent. We had nearly 60 folks combined attend the three. My Chaplain Assistant and I have also walked around to nearly all the bunks where our Soldiers are to distribute candy, playing cards, Bibles, and other sacred texts such as Korans, Books of Mormon, a Buddhist book, Jewish Torah, prayer books, and devotionals. Thanks to my friends back home in Middle Georgia, I have alot of happy Soldiers.

I’ve counseled several Soldiers, advised a few Sergeants, and walked around talking to as many Soldiers as I can. One Soldier took a Bible and had a small study with other Soldiers. He is interested in becoming a Chaplain. I met a Soldier who is 43, who lived for three years at Jesus People USA, and who grew up listening to the same Christian rock I did. I bunk next to my Assistant on one side, and a single Soldier who graduated from West Point and is a Navigator. He has other Soldiers live with him at Ft. Benning and he is spiritually mentoring them.

I see God at work even in this training mission. I see God at work in 3-1 Cavalry. God is working in 3rd Brigade. I have a great Brigade Chaplain. I am tired but having a great time. Tonight I prepped my full body gas suit (JSLIST) because we hear tomorrow we will need it. Looks like our UMT will go into action. My Assistant has secured and inspected the vehicle that we will ride in on our mission in Death Valley. We will wear high tech “laser tag” gear that emits an extremely loud sound if we’re hit. Someone has to come rescue us to turn them off.

I’ve had planning meetings with the other UMTS and Brigade Chaplain, and met a very cool Catholic priest from Fort Stewart. I am feeling so blessed to be on this mission. It is an adventure. And I get to be salt and light to those on my team – to share the Gospel in tangible ways. Yes, I must admit Cavalry units can be quite colorful with lots of personality. There is ALOT of unit pride in 3-1 Cav, and the staff seems very tight. The Commanders of our five Troops and 1SGTs care about their Soldiers. The XO and SGT Majors are cool guys. I feel very blessed to be a Cavalryman “of the cloth.”

I am recalling all the stuff we learned at CH-BOLC at Fort Jackson. As I live under a roof with nearly 200 Soldiers I find myself missing that good time I had with fellow Chaplains at Capstone. The weather here reminds me of it.

I have seen that Soldiers in the field seem to hunger more for God then they do on post back home when they roll out every day at close of day.

Well, our S-3 is freaking a bit over the host of FRAGOS that just came down from Brigade at this late hour. But we can be flexible. Besides, my “word of the day” in the Command and Staff huddle in our TOC was Patience. Glad it was! We all need it!!!

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