Tag Archives: Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston

Teams prepare for Armywide best medic competition

By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

Two-Soldier teams across the Army are studying and training hard as they prepare to compete for the title of best medic.

The Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Best Medic Competition, a 72-hour competition that pushes Soldiers to their physical and mental limits, will take place Oct. 24-27 at Joint Base San Antonio – Fort Sam Houston and nearby Camp Bullis, Texas.

After reacting to fire, competitors in the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School Best Medic Competition had to move an injured Soldier to safety and treat his injuries. Above, Sgt. David Hull inserts an IV into a training arm. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
After reacting to fire, competitors in the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School Best Medic Competition had to move an injured Soldier to safety and treat his injuries. Above, Sgt. David Hull inserts an IV into a training arm. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

After proving themselves at lower-level competitions, 42 two-person teams will represent divisions, commands, separate brigades and special operations units from throughout the Army. Each team member must have a 68 medical series military occupational specialty and must have earned either the Combat Medical Badge or the Expert Field Medical Badge to be eligible to compete.

The team members representing U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, which will host the Armywide event, said they plan to utilize every resource available to them at Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis as they prepare. Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cummings of A Company, 264th Medical Battalion, 32nd Medical Brigade, and Sgt. David Hull of C Company, 232nd Medical Battalion, 32nd Medical Brigade, know too well the bitterness of coming in second, and have vowed it will not happen again.

Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cummings fires an M16 rifle during the AMEDDC&S Best Medic Competition at Camp Bullis, Texas. (Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez / AMEDDC&S)
Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cummings fires an M16 rifle during the AMEDDC&S Best Medic Competition at Camp Bullis, Texas. (Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez / AMEDDC&S)

Hull came in second place at the Best Medic Competition two years ago, and Cummings came in second at the Advanced Individual Training Platoon Sergeant of the Year competition that took place only the week before the AMEDDC&S Best Medic Competition. The disappointment was fresh in their minds.

“You never live down a second place finish, because you are the first loser,” Hull said. “I couldn’t go last year, because my unit was in predeployment training. So this is my chance to go back for first place. I’ve been looking for redemption.”

“We already talked about it,” Cummings said. “We said, ‘Hey, if we are on the team together, we are not getting second. First is the only option.”

Inspiring others to compete

Only five participants competed in September for the title of AMEDDC&S Best Medic. Cummings said he was sad to see younger Soldiers were not making competitions a priority, and decided to compete in both the AMEDDC&S Best Medic Competition and the AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competition to inspire his Soldiers and others to compete in the future.

His plan is working. Even before the AMEDDC&S competition came to a close, Cummings said several of his Soldiers approached him, saying, “Hey, let me know what you learn, because I want to compete next year.”

Sgt. David Hull, center, instructs Soldiers as they secure a “casualty” to a litter for evacuation during the AMEDDC&S Best Medic Competition. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Sgt. David Hull, center, instructs Soldiers as they secure a “casualty” to a litter for evacuation during the AMEDDC&S Best Medic Competition. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“We all need to remember that the Warrior Ethos is more than just for combat,” Cummings said. “You live it every single day. Your desire to go out and fight and win should be instilled here, each and every day, with everything you do. There is no room for complacency. There is no room for just getting by. You push yourself every single day, and you push your peers. You motivate each other. That is how you get better.”

“If I, a sergeant first class, am willing to go out and do back-to-back competitions – neither one a walk in the park, by any means – and still put forth my best effort and give these guys a run for their money, then that’s what it’s all about. We are the best military in the world because we push ourselves and we push each other. We need to keep that going. Even if you don’t win, it still sets you apart, because you are out there demonstrating that you want to get after it. You want to go and push yourself and test yourself and, if nothing else, you will learn, you will improve yourself, and you will at least give the people who do win those competitions a contest worth winning.”

Hull said he also hopes younger Soldiers and NCOs will rise to the challenge and recognize the benefits of competition. Not only would winning set them apart when it comes time for their next promotion, but the process itself is a valuable training opportunity, especially for those who do not practice those skills in their everyday job.

“This is such excellent training,” Hull said. “Everyone comes to win, but even if you don’t win, you leave having learned a lot. And you rarely get this kind of support on lanes like we did. The amount of cadre and personal – they provided an enormous amount of training in just two days.”

Preparing for the Armywide competition

The Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Best Medic Competition is designed to physically and mentally challenge each team and test its tactical medical proficiency and leadership skills.

Events will include a physical fitness challenge, an obstacle course, a written test, a ruck march, and combat, shooting, medical and land-navigation challenges.

Cummings and Hull said they will be resting up and doing as much as they can to prepare before the end of October.

“Every medical course under the sun is here [at AMEDDC&S], pretty much, and we want to take advantage of that,” Cummings said. “We don’t have a lot of time, but the more training we can do, the better.”

The medical tasks are the most daunting and, for him, require the most preparation, Cummings explained.

Sgt. David Hull, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cummings cool down with a tub of ice water during the AMEDDC&S Best Medic Competition at Camp Bullis in September. Hull and Cummings were the winners of the competition, and will represent AMEDDC&S in the Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Best Medic Competition. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Sgt. David Hull, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cummings cool down with a tub of ice water during the AMEDDC&S Best Medic Competition at Camp Bullis in September. Hull and Cummings were the winners of the competition, and will represent AMEDDC&S in the Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Best Medic Competition. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“Only because there are so many steps. If you miss a step, it can throw everything off,” he said. “For example, if you start an IV before you secure an airway – that is a huge mistake. You are starting an IV to restore circulation and/or maintain blood pressure on somebody who doesn’t even have an airway, so they are dead before you even start the line. You can literally get so focused on what is in front of you that you get that tunnel vision. You can execute an intervention perfectly, but if it is at the wrong time, that is as lethal as not doing anything at all.

“And the chaotic nature of the competition is meant to mimic combat, and it leads to mistakes like that,” he continued. “That stress is built in, and it is realistic. You get so focused on your casualties – and you want to do your best for them. You immediately see something that needs to be fixed, but if you are not careful to step back and look at the big picture, you [could lose them.]”

That is why preparation is key, Cummings said. He is determined to prepare as well as he can, and then once the competition begins, he will focus only on the task before him. He said his experience in the recent AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competition will certainly help him, but the experience he will rely on most is his teammate’s, because Hull has actually competed in best medic.

“Cummings’ performance [in the AMEDDC&S Best Medic Competition] is evidence of his ability – after competing for AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year and having only one day off in between competitions – I think we will make a very strong team,” Hull said. “Get this guy some rest, and he will come back and ‘beast mode’ the Army Best Medic Competition.”

“Were going to tear that stuff up,” Cummings said.

Surrounded by smoke, Sgt. David Hull moves a mannequin onto a litter for medical evacuation. The MEDEVAC lane was one of the competition exercises at the AMEDDC&S Best Medic competition. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Surrounded by smoke, Sgt. David Hull moves a mannequin onto a litter for medical evacuation. The MEDEVAC lane was one of the competition exercises at the AMEDDC&S Best Medic competition. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

Former NCO burned in IED blast wants to open restaurant, empower veterans

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

Former Staff Sgt. Bobby Henline has spent nearly nine years trying to empower wounded warriors such as himself. Now he wants to help employ them.

Henline is working to open a restaurant dedicated to hiring veterans in San Antonio, Texas. The location is not far from the medical facilities he frequents at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, where he has received treatment since 2007 for burns that cover nearly 40 percent of his body. Henline was burned in a roadside bomb blast in 2007 in Iraq that killed the four Soldiers he was riding with. Since then, he has undergone 46 surgeries and six months of rehabilitation. His likeness is permanently altered.

On his arduous road to recovery, Henline found comfort and strength in humor. He has enjoyed a newfound career as a stand-up comedian, telling his story on stage as a coping mechanism. Henline found that taking others along on his journey has helped other injured — and sometimes disfigured — Soldiers face their lives with the same exuberance. He hopes his new venture takes that notion a step forward.

“I’m trying to give back,” Henline told People Magazine earlier this month. “This is a great way to do it, through empowerment and food.”

Henline is partnering with Richard Brown, a Marine and Korean War veteran, who owns a hamburger restaurant in San Clemente, California. The restaurant is one of Henline’s favorite stops, not only because of the savory hamburgers but also because the two men share an interest in helping their fellow veterans.

Brown will teach Henline all he needs to know to run his own business. Henline will solely hire veterans to work at the restaurant.

“It’s not just me getting a restaurant,” Henline said. “It’s me learning to fish, it’s me teaching other veterans how to fish and to continue on to help the stability of other veterans not just myself.”

‘That’s all I remember that day’

Henline has only a couple vivid memories of the day his life changed.

It was April 7, 2007, and Henline was part of a convoy that was making stops at various forward operating bases, or FOBs, delivering supplies and transporting Soldiers north of Baghdad, Iraq. He was a part of the 82nd Airborne Division and was weeks into his fourth deployment.

“We were doing the typical, ‘Get the convoy ready,’ that morning,” Henline told The NCO Journal in 2014. “There are two things I remember. One was that there were two Soldiers in the vehicle who normally didn’t ride with me. I also remember getting a second cup of coffee. The S-4 captain, who was sitting behind me, he wasn’t there yet. So we were sitting around waiting, and I ran and grabbed another cup of coffee while we were waiting on him.

“That’s all I remember that day.”

Henline’s vehicle was at the front of the convoy traveling near the Diyala province village of Zaganiyah when an improvised explosive device detonated underneath it. The blast hurled the humvee nearly 50 feet down the road. Four Soldiers — Capt. Jonathan Grassbaugh, Spc. Ebe Emolo, Spc. Levi Hoover and Pfc. Rodney McCandless — were killed instantly. When fellow Soldiers reached the vehicle, they found he was severely injured, but alive.

Two weeks later, Henline emerged from a medically induced coma at Brooke Army Medical Center at San Antonio, thus beginning a medical odyssey filled with painful moments, both physical and emotional.

But one thing came easy to him — humor.

Henline says laughter helped keep spirits high for him and the medical personnel working with him. It also helped his wife, Connie, and the rest of his family cope with their loved one’s ordeal and changed appearance.

“Joking around at the hospital, that was my way of using my sense of humor to let my family know I was OK, to let staff know I was OK,” he said. “It was how [I chose] to deal with the pain during physical therapy, laughing about it, joking with the other patients. I could see my family worrying. My mom couldn’t even get me a drink. She was shaking just trying to put the straw to my mouth, real scared. So it was kind of like, ‘Don’t worry, I’m still here. Even if today I’m kind of groggy.’ I’d still make a little joke to let them know, ‘It’s OK. I’m inside here. I just can’t move right now.’

“I think when I was talking a lot better and able to sit up and stuff, that’s when they were finally like, ‘OK, he’s still in there. He’s back. He’s still being that goofball.’”

From surgery to the stage

Henline spent almost the next two years working to regain a sense of normalcy.

His face was scarred by the burns he suffered and puffed by various skin-graft surgeries. His left ear was gone; his right was reduced to a rough-hewn stub. His smashed left hand eventually became too painful to bear, and he asked doctors to amputate it. After removing the protective goggles he was forced to wear for a year, it took time to get accustomed to the stares.

While jokes helped, Henline couldn’t shake the notion that he needed to heed a call. He just didn’t know what it was. Then his occupational therapist made a “stupid” suggestion.

“One day she told me, ‘You should try stand-up comedy!’” Henline said. “She has this really high-pitched voice, one of those happy people all the time. ‘You’ve got to try stand-up comedy. You’ve got to try it!’ I’m like ‘That’s stupid. It’s not going to work. This, here at the hospital, is funny. We could joke about it here.’ I wasn’t gonna go up on stage and people are gonna go, ‘Oh, you got blown up in Iraq? That’s funny.’”

Henline said he grew up admiring comedians such as George Carlin and Robin Williams. But he never considered actually taking a stage. However, after a steady stream of good-natured pestering from his therapist, he obliged, sealing the deal with a pinkie swear.

“My occupational therapist’s sister lives in L.A., and she’s in a band,” Henline said. “So one day, I’m going out there for a consultation to see a doctor. She tells me, ‘My sister’s in entertainment. She might know a place you could try it while you’re out there.’ Sure enough, her sister calls me and says, ‘Hey. Comedy Store. Go sign up at 5 o’clock.’”

Henline’s very first set took place August 2009 at the famed Los Angeles club on the same stage graced by some of comedy’s biggest names. He returned to San Antonio and began performing open-mic sets three nights a week. A year-and-a-half later, he was in Los Angeles when a chance meeting with a talent agent landed him an appearance in the Showtime documentary “Comedy Warriors: Healing Through Humor.” The film, released in April 2013, follows Henline and four other veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan as they work with comedy A-listers to explore their experiences through the healing power of humor.

Three years later, Henline is still healing. He wants to continue to help others do the same. He says one of the biggest driving forces behind him is the memory of his fellow Soldiers who didn’t come home with him that fateful day.

“It’s that same old thing, you’ve got to drive on,” Henline said. “Survivor’s guilt was really bad for me in the beginning. But you’ve got to live on for those who don’t live anymore, the guys who sacrificed it all. There were four other guys in that humvee who didn’t make it. I sat on the couch, and I felt sorry for myself. I gave up. But what’s that doing for them? I’ve got to live on for them. Any of them would trade places with me. They’d rather be in pain and look funny and be here. Their families would rather have them back. That’s a big push for me that helps drive me on.”

Duo from 173rd Airborne BCT wins Army Best Medic Competition

NCO Journal staff report

A pair of Army specialists is back in Europe with a grand accomplishment — winners of the Army Best Medic Competition.

Spc. Colin O’Donnell and Spc. Jesus Romero, of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based in Vicenza, Italy, were named winners of the 2015 Jack L. Clark Jr. U.S. Army Best Medic Competition on Friday during a ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

The competition took place throughout three days of events at Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis, Texas, last week. It featured 64 medics from all three Army components competing in two-man teams. All competitors were required to have earned the Expert Field Medical Badge or the Combat Medic Badge before taking part in events.

O’Donnell and Romero came out on top after events such as the combat warrior swim test, rifle qualification range, combat stress shoot test, Level II treatment/forward operating qualification and rifle zero qualification. For their winning efforts, both were awarded with the Meritorious Service Medal.

The competition’s second-place winners were Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Eisele and Spc. Garrett Woodford of the Regional Health Command-Central at Fort Sam Houston. They were awarded the Army Commendation Medal.

Third-place winners were Sgt. Tyler Campbell and Spc. Daniel Medrano who represented U.S. Army Alaska. Each received the Army Achievement Medal.

Congratulations to Team 2, 173rd Airborne Brigade, SPC Collin O'Donnell and SPC Jesus Romero, recognized as the first place winners in the 2015 Army Best Medic Competition! The competition was held 27 to 30 Oct at Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis, Texas. Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, commanding general, USA Medical Command and Army Surgeon General, and USAMEDCOM Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald C. Ecker presented the Meritorious Service Medal to the winners at an awards ceremony held Oct. 30 in Blesse Auditorium, Willis Hall, AMEDDC&S, HRCoE.
Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, from left, stands with Spc. Colin O’Donnell, Spc. Jesus Romero and Sgt. Maj. Gerald C. Ecker during an awards ceremony Friday at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The ceremony recognized O’Donnell and Romero as winners of the 2015 Jack L. Clark Jr. Army Best Medic Competition. (U.S. Army Medical Department photo)
Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Eisele and Spc.Garrett Woodford won second place at the 2015 Army Best Medic Competition. (U.S. Army Medical Department photo)
Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Eisele and Spc.Garrett Woodford won second place at the 2015 Army Best Medic Competition. (U.S. Army Medical Department photo)
Sgt.Tyler Campbell and Spc. Daniel Medrano won third place at the 2015 Army Best Medic Competition. (U.S. Army Medical Department photo)
Sgt.Tyler Campbell and Spc. Daniel Medrano won third place at the 2015 Army Best Medic Competition. (U.S. Army Medical Department photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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U.S. Army Medical Department photos

NCO called upon to intensify curriculum, training for chaplain assistants

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

Staff Sgt. Donovon Eaddy knows how vital religious support can be for Soldiers. That’s why he approaches his job with a solemn seriousness.

Eaddy is a 56M — a chaplain assistant. Like all chaplain assistants — a sizable amount of who are NCOs — he is charged with providing force protection for his unit’s chaplain to ensure fellow fighters have an outlet for religious support. Eaddy was doing just that on Aug. 7, 2010, when he was injured in an improvised explosive device blast in the Khost-Gardez Pass in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province.

“I was out going to get religious supplies so my guys could worship freely,” Eaddy said of the mission he was conducting that day as part of the famed Rakkasans — the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. “Do I regret it? I regret the pain. But will I stop going to get my guys supplies so they can practice and pray? No.”

That gritty resolve helped Eaddy get through the ordeal and return to duty in order to continue helping his fellow Soldiers engage in religious activities. It also put him in high demand to pass on the lessons forged in combat to new chaplain assistants in a recently revamped course at the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

The course conducted by the Department of Pastoral Ministry Education, or DPMT, has existed in some iteration at Fort Sam Houston since the late 1990s. But in its infancy, the course existed solely to train Army chaplains. Today, it still conducts training for chaplains through the combat medical ministry course, but now it also integrates training for chaplain assistants through its emergency medical ministry course. The courses run concurrently to allow a chaplain and his or her chaplain assistant — what’s known as a Unit Ministry Team, or UMT — to practice their new skills together. The change in scope of education for chaplain assistants was long overdue, said Chaplain (Maj.) Robert Miller, a lead instructor for the DPMT.

“A chaplain assistant, by regulation AR-165, they’re force protection,” Miller said. “That’s their primary mission. One of the things we struggle the most with is getting word out on what chaplain assistants provide for both the Chaplain Corps and the Army. Chaplain assistants aren’t drivers. They’re not administrative personnel. They’re primary mission is as a part of a team with a chaplain. They provide the force protection so the chaplain can provide the religious support. But they do that collaboratively. Each piece needs the other.”

Improving the program

Miller took the reins of the DMPT’s instruction in 2012. This was after completing the chaplain’s course in 2010. When he arrived, he said the program was in good shape but had some limitations. With the urging and support of Chaplain (Col.) Brent Causey, the AMEDDC&S command chaplain, Miller began an overhaul of the curriculum.

“When I took the course in 2010, one of the things I noticed was that it was more hospital focused,” Miller said. “It was a good course, but I also was concerned that we weren’t really focusing on what chaplain assistants needed. The course was dealing with trauma ministry, with hospital ministry, which was kind of an offshoot of what the clinical pastor education program was designed for. Well, chaplain assistants don’t really function well there. So, the question was, ‘What can we do for them?’”

Miller said the first thing senior leadership desired was a senior NCO to be an instructor.

Chaplain (Maj.) Robert Miller, left, and Staff Sgt. Donovon Eaddy are lead instructors of the Combat and Emergency Medical Ministry courses for the Department of Pastoral Ministry Education at the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School. (Photo by Pablo Villa)
Chaplain (Maj.) Robert Miller, left, and Staff Sgt. Donovon Eaddy are lead instructors of the Combat and Emergency Medical Ministry courses for the Department of Pastoral Ministry Education at the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School. (Photo by Pablo Villa)

“Chaplain Causey said, ‘I have to have a senior NCO with a level of experience that he can bring to the table to be one of my instructors,’” Miller said.

That’s when Eaddy came into the picture.

“The reason we brought him here is more than his rank,” Miller said. “What Staff Sgt. Eaddy brings to the table is he is a 56M who has deployed and who has worked with an infantry unit so he understands the infantry school concept. He was deployed as a chaplain assistant. He’s also a wounded warrior. So not only does he bring the intellect, the competency and the skills of a Soldier, but he brings experience in the understanding and requirements of the 56M.”

With instructions to take a critical look at the two-week course, Miller and Eaddy worked together over several months to improve it. The pair looked at ways to move curriculum away from being based largely in the classroom and also keep the focus from centering on the chaplains.

“Staff Sgt. Eaddy and I worked very closely to make the course more UMT- focused,” Miller said.

That means, among other things, that in addition to the classroom learning, students spend approximately 25 hours in a Trauma 1 facility responding to trauma alerts and interacting with wounded warriors. The lessons prepare UMT members to address the trauma, crisis, grief, death, spiritual health, and other ministerial concerns that arise in a Combat Support Hospital (CSH) or Combat and Operational Stress Control (COSC) Detachment, and is designed to prepare UMTs for medical ministry associated with deployments.

Intensifying training

The revamped courses for chaplains and chaplain assistants began in January 2013. Miller said the DPMT expects to conduct up to seven concurrent courses a year.

The approximately 210 Soldiers who take part each year experience an arduous 14 days. Eaddy says the training is demanding in order to prepare students for potentially difficult times. The suggestions Eaddy made that have been added to the curriculum reflect that.

“One of the changes that we made was our students took a tour of the morgue,” Eaddy said. “You would be amazed at the number of chaplains and chaplain assistants that haven’t been exposed to that. So, if you’re trying to make a chaplain or chaplain assistant who will be effective in combat but hasn’t been exposed to death, that’s a major detriment. It’s something they might face downrange.”

Beyond the classroom portion of the training, students also face stern tests in the field. They are exposed to such things as CSH procedures, mass-casualty training and memorial ceremony procedures. All of these are faced by the UMTs with an eye toward ensuring enrichment for both parties. That’s training that chaplain assistants didn’t have previously.

A chaplain assistant leads a chaplain through a situational training exercise, or STX, lane at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. (Photo courtesy of Department of Pastoral Ministry Education)
A chaplain assistant leads a chaplain through a situational training exercise, or STX, lane at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. (Photo courtesy of Department of Pastoral Ministry Education)

“We keep in mind and we teach, ‘What can the chaplain assistant do?’” Eaddy said. “Where can the chaplain assistant be that can help the mission out more? We teach some of the things that aren’t taught in school, like memorial ceremonies. That’s not very harped on in school. One of the things that’s not even taught at AIT (Advanced Individual Training) are ramp ceremonies. We teach chaplain assistants what the regulations say on a ramp ceremony. Not only do we show them how to conduct a ramp ceremony, we show them where you can find the field manuals and regulations on a ramp ceremony so that they can go back and stage it in their unit correctly.”

One of the last endeavors the UMTs undergo during the course is a trip through the simulated training exercise, or STX, lanes. It is a harsh exercise meant to teach the UMT how to maneuver through treacherous conditions but also to highlight the importance of the chaplain assistant.

“We throw at them a very high-intensity exercise,” Miller said. “We allow the chaplain assistants to fully voice what they like and what they didn’t like at the same time we’re doing the officers. Nobody else does this. And they’re finally here in this course getting to see how integral a chaplain assistant is to that team, because without him, I’m just a preacher. That’s all I can bring to the table. With him, I’m a fully functional chaplain. With me, he’s a fully functional 56M and that’s what we’re trying to get them to realize, whether you’re a private or whether you’re a sergeant major, as a chaplain assistant you have the responsibilities of force protection and ensuring that your unit ministry team can function.

“When we get done we ask the chaplains, ‘So how did it feel?’ Almost to a man, they say, ‘For the first time in my career, I felt helpless and dependent upon somebody to get me out of harm’s way.’ Because many of the chaplains we have come down here may be on a FOB (forward operating base) or may have gone downrange. Not all chaplains have actually been involved in a firefight. We want to get them ready so that doesn’t surprise them. But, more importantly, we don’t want our chaplain assistants with their heads in the sand. We want them to be that force protection element that every command sergeant major wishes he or she had.”

Building on success

While Miller says one of the long-term goals of the courses is to make them mandatory elements of being in the Chaplain Corps, he says recent gains have reinforced the notion that the work he and Eaddy are doing is valuable.

“For the first time, we’ve been authorized to issue a DA Form 1059 (an academic evaluation report),” he said. “This used to be a gentleman’s course, where even if you fail the final exam, you still were given credit and received a certificate. Chaplain Causey says that’s gone. If students are going to come here, and commanders are paying for it — both in the officer and enlisted side — they’re going to have to go back and say, ‘Either we are or we are not competent in nine different skill levels,’ and that’s going to be reflected in their ERB (Enlisted Record Brief) and ORB (Officer Record Brief).”

Miller also says he will continue to improve upon the training offered for both chaplains and chaplain assistants in order to build UMTs that will be able to offer comfort and solace to Soldiers during the direst of times.

“Combat will always be a part of the Army,” Miller said. “If we don’t intensify the training, then what will be presented will intensify the loss. We use videos of hard war movie videos that make them think about what they may one day end up facing. So when they face it, it doesn’t shock them. They can look at that and say, ‘OK, I’ve seen this before, emotionally. I can act on this right now.’ Because whereas most Soldiers are trained to either give orders or take orders, we want to have a Unit Ministry Team that is trained to go in and function as an independent element that you don’t really know is there.

“They’re like shadow warriors. Most commanders don’t really need a chaplain or chaplain assistant. But when they need one — when there’s a suicide, when there’s a death of a soldier, when there’s a Soldier who just doesn’t know what to do — they want to know where the chaplain and chaplain assistant are because they expect that those are the professionals who will go in and make a situation better, never make it worse. That’s the intensity that we give them in those two weeks.”

Eaddy hopes to expand upon the field training exercises the students face. His most recent effort is the installation of a defensive driving element to training, which may be implemented by the latter half of 2015. But he says the biggest skill he can help hone for his fellow chaplain assistants — particularly those who are NCOs — is being keenly aware of regulations, as they will save lives, lift spirits and embolden the next chaplain assistants in line.

“That’s what I’m instilling in them because that is one of the main things the NCO Corps was originally brought up on,” Eaddy said. “Take this training very seriously because you don’t know where you’re going to be tomorrow.

“That NCO is actually able to take this training and train their Soldiers. It will continue to keep the training going even after the war is stopped. If you fail to continue to do these steps, you will lose these steps. So, it’s very important for these chaplain assistants to stay fresh with their skills.”