Many soldiers can explain the role of their unit’s chaplain, but do they know about the soldier supporting him behind the scenes?
The Army offers more than 200 military occupational specialties, or jobs, that can be made into careers and carried over into the civilian world.
The role of the chaplain assistant begins with exactly what the name describes: assisting the chaplain. Although this specialty has a humble title, the scope of its duties is multifaceted.
“Our (occupational specialty) is not really well defined,” said Sgt. Nicholas Teague, the chaplain assistant for the 1st “Centurion” Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. “The job isn’t really self explanatory.”
Teague said some of his duties include providing religious support to soldiers at the battalion level, preparing for religious services, providing security for the chaplain while deployed, planning retreats and talking to soldiers in need of a release.
Capt. Marshall Coen, the brigade chaplain, said chaplain assistants are invaluable, and their primary role is to ensure the chaplain does well.
“Chaplain assistants are vital for the Chaplain Corps,” Coen said. “We are a team.”
The chaplain assistant is the behind-the-scenes soldier making sure everything is set up, advertised, scheduled and organized for the chaplain, Coen said.
People don’t see the setup and breakdown of religious services or after units have used the chapel, Coen said. It’s all done by the chaplain assistant, who works Friday and Saturday evenings, and Sunday mornings for religious services.
Coen said a good chaplain assistant understands the success, knowledge and well-being of the chaplain depends greatly on what the assistant does.
“The chaplain assistant is very much the backbone of the Chaplain Corps,” Coen said.
Coen said because the chaplain’s main focus is ministry, the chaplain assistant’s focus is everything Army related to help the chaplain succeed. The chaplain assistant is not required to have a faith background of any kind.
“As a chaplain and a chaplain assistant, we bring to soldiers the opportunity for them to practice, live and express their faith,” Coen said.
The office of the chaplain and chaplain assistant is considered a place of confession, Coen said. A soldier or a family member can come express their feelings and troubles without fear of recourse.
Teague said the majority of his day consists of speaking with soldiers. Topics vary from stress, relationship issues, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even the loss of a loved one.
“I think our greatest significance is being an outlet for a soldier to discharge,” Teague said. “When you have all that frustration built up in you, you have to turn to somebody.”