We were all grateful for the classes Reporting to Your Command and Your First Month. The content here was very practical regarding details of how to make the transition during the first few days and weeks at our new command. Other practical input came from our class on Wardroom and Social Etiquette. The military has certain customs and expectations that we need to abide by in these areas. Other classes focused on counseling and suicide prevention. Much of our time as chaplains will be spent addressing these issues, necessitating further instruction and discussion.
We also had the privilege of hearing from a few special guests. First, we had a presentation from a chaplain at Motor Racing Organization (MRO) which provides chaplains to a variety of motor sports, including NASCAR. Although there are distinctions between chaplaincy in the MRO and in the military, there are many similarities as well from which we could learn. Second, we had a presentation from a representative from Military Ministries, a branch of Campus Crusade for Christ. This organization works closely with military chaplains and provides many helpful resources to them without cost. Third, we had a presentation from a representative from CREDO (Chaplain's Religious Enrichment Development Operation). This is a ministry of the Chief of Chaplains and offers a variety of education and counseling programs to military personnel and their families for free (including transportation and lodging).
The final two days of TEAMS was spent at NS Mayport near Jacksonville, FL. During our time there, we had the opportunity to hear from the chaplains that serve at this base. That evening we attended a pre-deployment brief that was being given to sailors and their families, a brief that many of us will give often during our career. Experiencing one first hand was very helpful. We also were given a tour of a destroyer (USS Farragut) or a cruiser (USS Vicksburg), met some of the personnel on board, and then spent the night. Those who have served aboard ship before tend to call the berthing spaces for enlisted personnel "coffins". Now I know why! Not a whole lot of room to move around. We also had the opportunity to tour a nearby Coast Guard station and two of the ships stationed there. All in all, this was an amazing and worthwhile experience, providing us the opportunity to envision life and ministry aboard ship.
In some ways that last three months have gone by slowly and in other ways they have gone by very quickly. As I graduate this week, I do so with mixed emotions. I am excited about my future life and ministry as a Navy chaplain and look forward to the move to El Centro, CA. The last twelve weeks have been difficult and challenging, but they are exactly what I had hoped for when making the decision to become a Navy chaplain. I have no regrets. I have seen God's hand in protecting and preserving me throughout this process, proving to me over and over again that His will and ways are perfect.
I will greatly miss my fellow chaplains who I have trained with during this time. This experience has brought us together as a brotherhood. I have benefitted greatly from their friendship and encouragement along the way. It has been a special class that God will use to minister in His name and for His glory in the years to come. See you in the fleet!
Next stop... El Centro!