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Posts Tagged ‘military’

New Army PT Uniform

PT Uniform

 

Somewhere a Command Sergeant Major is finally happy!

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Can you teach an Army chaplain new tricks?

That seemed to be the question for our class at the brigade chaplain course.  The last couple of weeks at Fort Jackson were a strange odyssey to say the least. Everything was new and I felt old.  Perhaps ancient would be a better word after seeing some of the newly commissioned lieutenants.  For someone who entered the Army in 2000, little looks the same.

Religious support training and staff officer work before 9/11 consisted of battle books with three-ring binders stuffed full of paper with colored tabs.  The war years changed resources to compact disks, thumb drives, and websites.  It seems like nearly everything has changed since I learned to wear a set of battle dress uniforms, BDUs, and shine my boots.  Heck, even the chaplain school changed.  It is now a joint facility shared with the Navy and the Air Force chaplain corps.  And let me tell you, I don’t even know how to speak Navy!  Water talk is not in my vocabulary.

2013 and the post war years will ultimately usher in another round of change. Today, battle books exist in the cloud.  Field Manuals are now boiled down to fifty documents.  Digital references and documents will be downloaded and viewed on portable electronic devices.  We now conduct Soldier Leader Engagements instead of Key Leader Engagements.  And yes, no one wears BDUs any longer or shines boots. It has all changed.

That was a major take away from the course.  Chaplains, and the Army, must learn how to prepare for, balance, and conduct operations among change.  In an age of satellites, drones, and cyber commands, change is inevitable.  President Woodrow Wilson once exclaimed, “We won the war to end all wars!”  The comment seemed valid at the time, but today it is used in a disparaging way to highlight people being short-sighted.  When you hear the statement now, it just reinforces the idea that change is heading your way.

While all of this change can seem overwhelming, ministry has not changed, nor the need to give religious support to Soldiers and military families.  Sure services, tools, resources, and items may have changed, but the concept of ministry has not. People need the Lord.

Apps, mp3 players, and Skype are great new ministry tools, but ministers, pastors, and priests are still needed to share the life changing message of Christ.  Military chaplains will continue to use new ministry tools and resources, but the mission of our calling has not changed.  Sharing the gospel with a dark and sometimes unwelcoming world is the Great Commission work that we are called to perform.  It is our duty to remain faithful and true to Christ in all we do and say.

While the Army has certainly changed since 2000, a few things will not change.  God reigns.  His love is unfailing.  Christ provides redemption and salvation.  Thank God these things will never change.

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PX

Congress and the administration continue to seek answers in fighting military rape and sexual assaults.  As part of the sexual assault reduction effort, service chiefs instructed commanders to remove offensive and degrading material from military offices and workplaces.  This written policy required units to remove pornographic and offensive material like, “books, pictures, photographs, calendars, posters, magazines, videos . . . .”

While this is a good reminder on maintaining an appropriate work area and promotes equality, it seems highly contradictory to continue selling pornography on military installations when it is not allowed in other public areas.

Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Exchanges continue to sell inappropriate magazines which treat woman as little more than objects for sexual pleasure. Please keep in mind that this smut is located in aisles where service members, spouses, families, and kids walk past every day.  While a placard may be present to hide the magazine cover, pornography continues to be sold on US military installations across the globe.

It is high time for this practice to stop.

If the military is truly concerned about this fight, then let us attack the attitude that allows sexual exploitation in the first place!  Let us create a better environment where people can truly be seen and respected as equals.  If pornography cannot be allowed in the workplace, why is it allowed in every government-sponsored store on post?

While pornography is not the sole cause of sexual assaults in the military, it is degrading the environment for women in the force and polluting a military climate built on respect, service, and integrity.

Many will call me outdated, old-fashioned, pre-historic, a Bible thumper, a religious zealot, or worse.  I have big shoulders if folks disagree, but pornography is part of the problem with our military culture.  We also deserve consistent policies guiding its removal.  If Big Army is listening, it is time to remove pornography from the PX.

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Enduring Freedom

Most service members think about spiritual matters during deployment.  We take stock of our lives while in the face of death and danger.  This time of examination and spiritual questioning is important.  Rarely do we stay the same afterward.  This time of spiritual searching will frequently send service members in one of two distinct directions.  Many gain a stronger relationship with God.  Others may question their beliefs and feel spiritually empty.

For those who may be in the later category, I want you to know that it is normal to ask questions about our faith.  Spiritual matters are important downrange, when we have returned home, and as we reintegrate into our communities.  Everyone is impacted differently by war.  We have endured different levels of strife and conflict. We also have different levels of spiritual understanding when we enter the combat zone and when we leave.  Regardless of your location or when you served, your faith will be different when you come home.

No matter if your faith has grown or shrunk, it is important that you continue moving forward in your Christian walk.  Do not stand still in your faith.  1 Timothy 4:7b-8 shares, “rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

Every believer, civilian or veteran, needs a spiritual fitness routine.  Like physical fitness, spiritual fitness must be practiced.  While it is different from going to the gym and lifting weights, the concept is the same.   We need to exercise our spiritual muscles in order to grow our faith.

Spiritual fitness can take place in many different ways:

  • prayer
  • reading scripture
  • attending worship services
  • seeking spiritual counsel
  • fellowship
  • meditation
  • journaling

This is a small, but important sample of spiritual exercises that you can try.  Feel free to try one and gradually combine others to your list.   You can also participate in these activities with your family, friends, and a Christian community of believers, adding a greater dimension to your spiritual fitness by increasing your connection to other people.

Spiritual fitness is important to everyone.  It draws us closer to God, forms us in the image of Jesus Christ, and allows us to strengthen our faith.  Your spiritual fitness also affects your ability to deal with stress and times of crisis.  Multiple studies determined that veterans who have an active spiritual practice report fewer and less severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.  Those who struggled with their faith or felt alienated from God had more severe PTSD symptoms.

Spiritual fitness also reduces anxiety, loneliness, and depression.  Studies have also documented how people with a weekly pattern of attending worship services live longer, are healthier, and recover from illness more quickly.

Veterans and service members can take comfort in the transforming power of God. No matter where or when you were deployed, God still cares about you.  No matter what you saw downrange or what you did, you can have a redeemed life.

When life seems full of despair, the Lord shares purpose, meaning, forgiveness, and acceptance.  Continue to move forward in your faith.  Train yourself to be the godly and righteous person you were called to become.

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May marks the celebration of Military Appreciation Month, Military Spouse Appreciation Day, and Armed Forces Day.  One special month and special days are a good start to recognizing the sacrifices of our American service members and their families.  Show that your thanks and appreciation is unending for those who serve our nation 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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Military news outlets confirmed that the officer in charge of the U.S. Air Force effort to curb sexual assaults and harassment was arrested over the weekend.

A Lieutenant Colonel was arrested on Sunday and charged with sexual battery after he allegedly grabbed a woman by the breasts and buttocks.   An Arlington County Police spokesman said the woman fended off the attacker, who was under the influence of alcohol, and when he attempted to grab her a second time she was able to call the police, who arrived a short time later and detained him.

The attacker was initially held on a $5,000 unsecured bond.  He has since posted bond and been released from the Arlington County Detention Facility.

The Air Force said that the Lieutenant Colonel, had been removed from his job as chief of the service’s sexual assault prevention and response branch after his arrest.

Stories like this need to be shared in military circles.  It is an odd and ironic story because of the person’s duty assignment, but there are some common themes that need to be highlighted.

1.  The military has a zero tolerance policy on sexual assault and harassment.  You will be punished for violating this policy.  It may cost you your paycheck, your current assignment, your job, your military career, or your freedom as you sit in a jail cell.

2.  Alcohol use is reported in a majority of sexual assault causes.  If you drink, be responsible.  Do not allow excess to impair your judgment or behavior.  If you are serving alcohol, recognize when a person has had enough.

3.   You have the right to physically defend yourself.   Let us applaud the victim for defending / protecting herself, immediately calling the police, and standing up for her rights as an individual.

4.  Make time to file a report.  Too many service members fail to report incidents like this.  Know that you can always file an unrestricted report in a military setting.  This will limit who knows the incident took place, but allows you to receive care and counseling.

If you have questions, want to know your options, want to talk with a counselor, or need to report a sexual assault in the military, call 877-995-5247 or click www.safehelpline.org.  The DoD Safe Help Line is a 24/7 resource for all service branches.

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Everyone loves the Christmas season.  While reasons may vary from hearing a performance of the Hallelujah Chorus to snow sledding, people love the Christmas season.  It is the arrival of our promised Emmanuel, “God with us.”  This season also has a funny way of changing people.

Yes, Christmas is the best time of year, but we often forget to mention what it does to us.  Christmas brings out the best in us.  No matter where you live, there is an increased effort for people to be kind, caring, and generous.  Drivers are more courteous on the roadways.  You open the door for someone when their arms are full with shopping bags.  Neighbors help each other by raking leaves or shoveling snow off sidewalks.  We even tell total strangers, “Merry Christmas!”

This spirit of gratitude and grace comes from our Creator.  God has demonstrated His love in sending Jesus Christ to earth.  We celebrate this perfect gift in many ways, but the power of God’s love changes us.

We reciprocate the love that God has shared with us, His children.  The gift of Jesus is so tremendous that we live in a different way.  We choose to be transformed and in turn show greater compassion.  This beautiful event happens more now than at any other time of the year.  Christmas and the celebration of our Savior yield a new and different world.  One where people give gifts, adopt orphans, feed the homeless, care for widows, support unemployed veterans, and show compassion to the resident stranger.  In short, we decide to live out our faith.  We put God’s plan of grace into action.

As the Christmas holiday approaches you and your family, make the decision to be transformed.  Reflect the love that God has poured out from heaven, through Jesus the promised Messiah.  Demonstrate your faith and share the love that you have received from our Heavenly Father.

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Today Marines celebrate 237 years of faithful duty, service, and sacrifice to our nation.  Know that your efforts are appreciated throughout America.

Nehemiah 4:14 is a great passage that highlights people who are willing to stand up and do what is right.  The verse reminds us to ” . . . Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome,and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”

Our first charge is the remember the Lord.  There is no escaping our Creator.  Scripture constantly reminds us to remember the love that God has for us.  The second charge challenges us to fight for our brothers.  Some may call that a mixed message, but it was a message that people needed to hear in the time of Nehemiah.  I believe that it is also relevant in our day and age.  Service takes different shapes and forms.

When injustices arise, there is a need for the farmer to leave his plow and defend what is right and true.  When disasters strike, leaders must come forward to help those in distress.  Faithful servants must be ready to right wrongs, help widows and orphans in need, and yes, at times take up arms to fight for our families.

Thank you for being there to fight for us.  May God continue to bless you and keep you!

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History has taught us that people are different when they return from war.  Part of the difference is often called the soldier’s paradox.  After returning from combat, veterans can be emotionally distant, edgy, and angry, but they are also happy to be home.

During this time, veterans may have a short temper and little tolerance for mistakes.  They are often more independent and boisterous than before the deployment.  The transition from the war zone to the home zone can be very difficult.  It also allows an atmosphere where anger, resentment, bitterness, and even depression can occupy our minds if we allow it.  If firm boundaries are not in place, we will abuse alcohol, behave badly, curse and swear, start shouting matches, and spend more time with our battle buddies than at home.

To put it plainly, we stumble.

1 Corinthians 10:32 shares, “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God . . . .”

This is an important reminder for returning veterans.  We should not falter in our witness.  Even if we are hurting, our actions are examples that other may follow.  It does not matter who may be watching an NCO, an officer, a spouse, a stranger, or your own child.  That being the case, we should not lead others toward sin.  We should instead reflect the love and peace of Christ.  Our actions should point toward the cross and demonstrate a redeemed life.

There are ways to ease the transition home.

Make time for your family.  Soldiers often make strong ties with fellow warriors while deployed.  This was part of your support network while down range, but there is a family who needs you.  Balance time between battle buddies and family.  Be a godly example for your spouse and kids.

Make time for God.  Growth and development is what every parent wants in a child.  If a child stops growing any parent would be concerned.  God wants us to mature and strengthen our faith.  If you are the same Christian you were last year, something needs to change.  Turn prayer, study, and fellowship into regular activities.  In time, you will see the difference.

We all stumble.  But there is a responsibility to get back on track.  Remember that sanctification is the lifelong process of being changed from one degree of glory to the next, constantly growing in Christ.  As military families continue reintegration, pursue the example of Christ.

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Heavenly Father, we ask that You continue to heal and restore as we remember the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

Comfort those who mourn the loss of loved ones from that day and all the actions that have followed in its wake.

Be with our military as they leave their families and sacrifice blood, sweat, and tears on our behalf.

Guide our leaders as they direct our nation.

Eternal God, help us to fix our eyes on You, to live like Christ, and to respond to Your Holy Spirit.

Amen.

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