COLUMBIA, S.C. (NNS) -- The Naval Chaplaincy School and Center (NCSC), part of the newly established Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center (AFCC), graduated 29 chaplains and chaplain candidates Nov. 6 during a ceremony at Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C.
The chaplains are the first to graduate since mid-August when the Naval Chaplains School relocated from Newport, R.I., to Columbia as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission's 2005 decision to co-locate all of the military ministry training at Fort Jackson.
The Naval Chaplains School became the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center to reflect the training of Navy chaplains and religious program specialist (RPs) in the same location,
"I'm totally excited about this crop of chaplains going to the fleet," said Capt. Michael W. Langston, NCSC's commanding officer. "They come with a variety of ministry experience. They're excited about the opportunity to minister to the fleet. More than anything else they're mature and they're bright, they have a servant's heart, and want to go out and take care of the needs of our men and women in uniform."
NCSC, the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School (USACHCS), and the U.S. Air Force Chaplain Service Institute (AFCSI) are co-located in Fort Jackson to form the AFCC. It is the aim of the AFCC to foster closer cooperation among the chaplain corps and make use of shared instruction and training.
More than 200 guests attended the ceremony, including Col. Steven Keith, commandant of AFCSI, and Chet Lanious, USACHCS' director of the Center for World Religions. Officials from the various faith groups that endorsed the graduating chaplains, and friends and family members of the new chaplains were also in attendance.
Navy Chief of Chaplains, Rear Adm. Robert F. Burt, served as guest speaker.
"Today, our country is engaged in several conflicts and missions around the world", said Burt. "The likelihood that you will find yourself in an area of hostilities is very real. We don't ask you to pull triggers, launch missiles, or throw grenades…but we will ask you to take care of our warriors who are in the fight."
The graduates began their journey in August in Newport at the Officers Development School for five weeks of naval indoctrination. In late September they arrived in Fort Jackson for the Basic Chaplain Course. During their seven weeks of training, chaplains were introduced to the schools newly developed curriculum, learning quickly how to adapt their civilian ministry skills to the military culture. They received first-hand knowledge from veteran chaplains who have served in combat.
"Lessons learned from combat is new to the curriculum," said NSCS Instructor Lt. Cmdr. Bruce Crouterfield. "The biggest lesson we have learned in combat, which we probably knew on an intuitive level, and something that has proved it's self over and over again, and even more so now, is that the chaplain is a symbolic reminder of the presence of God, even in combat. We can share that story now, like we've never been able to before."
Currently, NCSC is operating out of a temporary facility they refurbished. NSCS will remain in the refurbished building until they move into a newly built state-of-art "green" building in December. When they move into their new building, they will be connected to the other service chaplain schools that will also be housed in their own buildings.
Similar to AFFC's aim to foster closer cooperation among the Chaplain Corps, it is NCSC's intent to enhance its religious ministry team by having its chaplains and RPs train in the same location. The school will officially begin training RPs, the enlisted support Sailors for Navy chaplains, in January 2010. Until recently, RPs received their training at Naval Technical Training Center in Meridian, Miss.
"One can't do what one needs to do without the other," said Crouterfield. "In today's environment not only is the RP supporting the chaplain in terms of ministry, but the RP is an enlisted service member, so there is a connection with their colleagues. RP's have their ear to the deck plate. They can facilitate and move these young men and women toward the chaplain if there is a need.
"One of the key things in combat is the RP becomes the force protection for the chaplain. As a team, the chaplain can do the ministry while the RP is facilitating and providing the force protection, so that team concept is vital to us being able to accomplish the mission."
Like the chaplains before them who were taught in Newport, the chaplains graduating from NCSC in Fort Jackson will continue to serve the spiritual needs of those serving in the fleet through-out the world.
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