I graduated from Officer Development School on 4 February 2011. All in all it went very well. (Honestly, I think we were just glad to make it through the ceremony without anyone fainting or falling out.) That moment was and will continue to be a very memorable day in my life. It was almost exactly one year ago that I had decided to seriously pursue my passion to become a Navy Chaplain--and it was truly amazing to know that I was one step closer to it becoming a reality.
Our ODS class held a reception the evening prior to our graduation ceremony. Tammy, managing to get out of Chicago after a 20" snowfall that week, was able to come for both the reception (arriving just in time!) and the graduation. She was also able to stay for the next two days and we did some sightseeing in Newport, RI, visiting some of the historic mansions in the area.
Sunday came all too quickly as we had to say goodbye once more. She returned to Chicago and I went on to Columbia, SC, to continue my training at the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center located at Ft. Jackson. The training at the school is divided into three components--the Basic Course (4 weeks), RMTEX 1 week), and TEAMS (2 weeks). Today is actually the final day for the Basic Course and I can honestly say that I've enjoyed every moment. The physical training (PT), classroom instruction, etc. have exceeded my expectations.
We've received our physical training from a Marine gunnery sergeant. Given that all of us in the class (20 students) will likely serve with the Marine Corps at one time or another (and some directly when they leave from here), it is imperative that we are pushed to meet the Marine Corps fitness standards and try to stay there once we've left here. Our gunnery sergeant is a decorated veteran (IEDed twice!) and we have the greatest respect for him. During our first two weeks, we had PT five days a week. I've never been pushed this hard physically in all of my life--and I love it! On the first of PT we took our first physical fitness test. I was able to do 91 sit ups (2 minutes), 69 push ups (2 minutes) and run 1.5 miles in 12:31, a very similar result from my last physical fitness test ODS. Now, four weeks later, we took another fitness test. I was able to do 103 sit ups (2 minutes), 81 push ups (2 minutes), and run 1.5 miles in 12:03. There is still plenty of room for improvement, but I'm grateful for the progress that I've made.
Our classroom instruction has been excellent. Topics have included ethics, confidentiality, collateral duties, deployment ministry, chaplain corps history, religious accommodation, leadership, etc. These courses have included two tests and three written (4 page) papers, and a number of other miscellaneous assignments and practical exercises. The instructors and leaders here at the school are of the highest caliber both inside and outside the classroom.
RMTEX officially begins tomorrow morning! We will have two days of instruction this week and then approximately five days out in the field next week. Activities will include long hikes (with heavy packs!), the confidence course, endurance course, climbing tower, and night land navigation. A written exam will be included as well. We will be pushed physically, mentally, and emotionally. But the one thing we cannot do is give up. One concern we all have is for physical safety. Others who have gone before us have gotten hurt and have had to drop out of the course and return at a later date. No one wants that to happen. Please pray for me and our team that we will be kept safe and that we will persevere together.
I look forward to giving an update of RMTEX when I return. I'm sure I'll have some stories to share...