Part of the Team!

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The Army Chaplain is tasked with providing religious support to the unit, but also advising the Commander. I learned that providing religious support happens quickly. Soldiers very quickly come to see the Chaplain. Took me awhile to see that it was the person in the Chaplain position they were coming to see early on, even when they didn’t know me. Turns out it takes longer to provide religious support to the staff and Commander.

I will admit to still trying to learn my way around the Army, the Chaplaincy and my unit after 5 months on Kelley Hill, 8 months in the Army. Trying to follow my ‘battle rhythm’ and find that right balance has not been easy. A Chaplain Assistant has been very helpful. I rely on him a whole lot to help me with the soldiering piece. I rely on my XO, my Commander, and the other Staff and Troop Commanders to help me with the Staff Officer piece. I look to my Brigade Chaplain and my fellow Kelley Hill Chaplains (and some of their Chaplain Assistants) for guidance in the Chaplaincy piece.

In a scale of 1 to 10 of where I’d really like to be in operational efficiency, I’d probably give myself a 6-7 right now. The pace is brutal. The work itself is manageable and exciting. I have discovered that there are two distinct environment paces: the field pace and the office or garrison pace. Believe me when I say I prefer the field pace. Why? Because I am physically closer to Soldiers for long periods of time and I can do what I love most – to connect with Soldiers. In the garrison or office environment the paperwork is larger, and it takes much more effort to locate specific Soldiers to chat with. In the field the days seem too long. In garrison they seem not long enough. But maybe that’s just because I’m new.

As I said, gaining the trust of Soldiers as a new unit Chaplain is easier than gaining the trust of the Commander. That takes more time. He waits and watches to see (1) my connection to his Soldiers, (2) my knowledge and skills in my MOS, (3) the accuracy and frequency if my advise to him on unit issues and specific Soldiers in crisis that were sent to me, (4) and my overall ‘fit’ to the unit.

So far there have been three phases to my brief time with the unit: (1) The pre-NTC time when my Assistant and I got our office established and handled some early issues, thus establishing ourselves with the unit; (2) NTC field training during March; (3) post-NTC where we have begun to look ahead at some initial programs of our own beginning this summer, and using the connections we made at NTC to really begin to strengthen our connections with the Troops. The fourth phase will soon begin – during deployment of several of our battalions where another Chaplain and I will be tasked in covering over 1000 Soldiers each on Kelley Hill for the rest of the year. This could help me become more integrated with the Brigade. We will still be coordinating with our deployed counterparts because it is never “out of sight, out of mind.”

The 3-1 Cav Staff Ride in early May went a LONG way toward helping me become not just the Chaplain assigned to the Squadron but part of the team. We travelled to Vicksburg, MS where we learned about that Civil War battle through a day-long tour and briefings. I saw an opportunity to contribute and remembered my six Chaplain Medal of Honor recipients. I recalled that James Hill earned the MOH at Champion Hill. I used no notes as I briefed the staff and leadership about the Chaplaincy and James Hill and the other MOH winners. I had brought no notes. I think some of my staff were surprised as I was, but impressed. At the casino hotel, I shared a room with a Captain and two 2LTs. That was good bonding with staff. At the casino I joined in with the staff in just a little blackjack fun, using a very small amount I had set aside for the trip. At the 3-1 Cav “Dining In” I really bonded with the staff. They saw a Chaplain who was not outrageous, but also one who was willing to participate – within reason. They saw a real side to their Chaplain that showed them he was one of the team.

Since that time, I have noticed my Commander seeking me out more regularly for advice, for lunches, and for laughs. It is amazing what a Staff Ride can do. I love my Command Staff. This week was Sledgehammer Week as we could bring our Family members to work for some special events. I carried my kids, plus our two friends Robbie Thomas and Charlie Jones to Kelley Hill and Ft. Benning two days. My unit let them tour and ride in a Bradley, receive bookbags, do morning PT, eat in the DFAC, attend a colors casing ceremony with the Commander of 3rd Infantry MG Abrams, and tour tanks and explore all things Sledgehammer. We toured a couple chapels, and saw Airborne Soldiers in training.

Probably the highlight was when we were sitting in the Kelley Hill Rec Center eating our BBQ lunch and in walked the Division CO and CSM, and the Brigade CO and CSM – and sat down at the table next to us – while families watched ‘Puss In Boots’ while they ate. Then the 3-1 Cav CO, the CSM and the XO came to sit at our round table and chatted with all of us. That was one of my best meals in the Army. I really enjoy the way my Command staff embraces my family. I really feel part of the team now. After the Spur Ride next week, I may feel even more a part of the Squadron – or at least the medics staff!

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Buford Pennington on 24 May 12 at 23:53

    Howdy Chaplain WILLIAM BEAVER!
    I am so proud of you & what you are doing for our troops. I love you always!
    GReat-Grandpa Pennington.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Tammy Norton on 25 May 12 at 09:26

    You are an amazing man, CH Beaver. A true blessing!

    Reply

  3. Posted by Christy Howell on 25 May 12 at 10:48

    Loved the post again. It’s so great to know you are doing what you love to do and obviously what you were meant to do. You have the unending support and thoughts of your friends back home William. So proud of you!

    Reply

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