By Randy Murray, Fort Stewart Public Affairs
(updated from original)
FORT STEWART, GA -- Barely six weeks after the Continental Congress established the Army and the first branch of the Army, the infantry, a second branch was established upon orders by General George Washington, according to Chaplain (Col.) Gary Moore, Fort Stewart's installation chaplain.
The Army Chaplains Corps was established July 29, 1775 and for 244 years, approximately 25,000 Army Chaplains have served more than 25 million Soldiers and family Members, living up to the motto on its branch insignia, "Pro Deo et Patria," which means, "For God and Country."
"George Washington said, 'We need chaplains,'" said Chap. Moore, who hails from the mountain country of eastern Tennessee. "Washington was concerned about both the morale and morals of the Soldiers and believed the Army should provide paid religious leaders to meet Soldiers' spiritual needs."
Chap. Moore noted that Army chaplains have served in more than 270 major wars with seven chaplains receiving the Medal of Honor and 27 receiving the Distinguished Service Cross.
He emphasized, however, that since July 1929, Army chaplains are not trained as combat Soldiers.
"We don't even train on weapons now," he said. "According to FM 27-10, The Law of Land Warfare, chaplains come under Category IV of the Geneva Convention. If captured, we're supposed to be treated as detainees. That way, we can be allowed to minister to the spiritual needs of prisoners of war."
Chap. Moore admits this treatment is not always observed by the enemy, but said an enemy's failure to follow the rules of the Geneva Convention has never deterred American forces from doing what's right.
He went on to explain how the mission of the Army Chaplains Corps supplements the Army's overall mission by providing spiritual leadership for the Army Family.
"All leaders care for Soldiers," Chap. Moore said. "Chaplains are leaders too, with a mission to support the commander and serve the Soldier."
General George C. Marshall once said, "The Soldier's heart, the Soldier's spirit and the Soldier's soul are everything. Unless the Soldier's soul sustains him, he cannot be relied on and will fail himself, his commander (and) his country in the end."
According to the Army Chaplaincy Strategic Plan, the three-fold mission of the Army Chaplains Corps helps the Soldier with matters of the heart, spirit and especially the soul: 1) Provide religious support to America's Army across the full spectrum of operation. 2) Assist the commander in ensuring the right of free exercise of religion. 3) Provide spiritual, moral and ethical leadership to the Army.
Chap. Moore said Army Religious Affairs Sepcialists, now a separate military occupation specialty (56M), will celebrate their 110th birthday, Dec. 28.
Although many chaplains probably had someone assigned or attached to them to help with administrative and logistic issues, Chap. Moore said the Army didn't establish an official enlisted assistant to chaplains until 1909 with General Orders No. 253.
Despite being part of the chaplaincy, he emphasized the chaplain assistant is a "Soldier first and last."
"(Religious Affairs Specialists) train with and use weapons to provide security for the chaplain," he said. "Though they're not ordained, they are a full-fledged part of the unit ministry team, providing context for the worship area - whether it's for a wedding, funeral, memorial or worship service. They also take up the offering money and list every penny given on an offering control sheet, which is always deposited the day of or day after it's collected."
Because the chaplain assistant is a Soldier first, their combat record is impressive. Chap. Moore mentioned volunteer chaplain assistant Calvin Titus, who earned the Medal of Honor in 1902 for his heroism during the Boxer Rebellion in China.
See and hear Chaplain Solhjem's anniversary message here.
[Editor's Comment: Chaplain Thomas Solhjem is an ordained minister of the Gospel of the Assemblies of God, the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world. We are very proud of him and the fact we believe God has placed him in this strategic position as the Chief of Army Chaplains for such a time as this.]