GRAYLING, Mich.-- –
Chaplains have been integrated in the service and became permanent positions during the Revolutionary War. Some of their functions include caring for the spiritual well-being of service members regardless of their religious backgrounds and helping them meet challenges in areas like religion, morals, and morale. One Michigan Army National Guard chaplain candidate was able to put his service to task during Michigan’s largest joint forces exercise- Northern Strike 21 (NS 21)
“One of our roles is to make sure morale is there,” said Army 2nd Lt. Gabriel Marquez, chaplain candidate for the Michigan Army National Guard. “Chaplains are there to help boost morale and give service members an opportunity to relax while providing the spiritual aspect of training.”
“Spirituality can be a huge part of people’s lives and the goal is to help every individual attain the religion practice they want to hold,” he added.
Marquez found himself in a familiar setting—working with Marines. Marquez himself donned the Marine Corps uniform for six years prior to joining the Michigan Army National Guard.
“I enjoyed being in the Marine Corps, so being amongst Marines felt like I was amongst my Marine brothers and sisters once again,” said Marquez.
The chaplain’s corps can provide that emotional support aspect which assists service members to stay focused on missions and valuable training.
“As we deploy or are in a forward environment, it’s important to have some downtime to be able to process things that happened throughout the week, not only while we’re out here but also things that happen back home,” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Matthew Nolan, Combat Logistics Battalion 451, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Corps Forces Reserve. “Throughout the week, we get a chance to briefly talk to our loved ones back home and we hear about things and events as life goes on whether you’re there or not, and sometimes that can be difficult.”
“Whether church service directly applies or not, at least it gets you in the right mind space to be able to process things from an emotional level,” he said.
Although religious services are typically held in chapel facilities, that isn’t always the case. During NS 21, Marines found themselves in the field among the 148,000 square acres of land at Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Center, located in north central Michigan. The field environment offered an opportunity to host the service in a non-traditional setting—a field tent.
“This is my first field service and am doing it with the Marines,” said Marquez.
With one of their focuses being morale, the chaplains’ service also provides commanders a tool that promotes readiness within the ranks.
“If religion is a big part of your life and we deny you that practice, morale could drop,” said Marquez. “If morale drops, we’re not fighting at full capacity and if we’re not fighting at full capacity, lives get lost.”
“Our job is to ensure the service members can implement their faith while training and we are tasked to help them spiritually,” he added.
Others agreed the added value that comes to readiness and supporting the warrior.
“This service helps from an emotional development standpoint,” said Nolan. “Being able to think through the lesson the chaplain is providing helps while you’re working with other Marines on a daily basis.”
“It’s really important to hear the message from the chaplain and be able use that to apply to your situation,” he said.
With National Guard chaplains and chaplain assistants from Iowa, West Virginia, Michigan, and Texas, the spiritual teams are ensuring all services are taken care of spiritually at NS 21.
“We’ve been going out to different locations throughout Camp Grayling every day,” said Marquez. “My job during Northern Strike is to support the other chaplains and fill gaps if additional chaplain assistance is needed.”
“We want to be there for service members and offer them an opportunity to worship,” he said.
The feeling was rewarding for the chaplain as Marines took time out of their training schedule to reflect on spiritual faith.
“It filled my heart with joy to see Marines out here training and still wanting to implement their faith,” said Marquez. “For Marines to have that time to unload their pack, relax, and be in the presence of God was heartwarming.”