WASHINGTON (NNS) -- More than 100 Religious Program Specialists (RPs), past and present, gathered with the chief of Navy chaplains and deputy chief of Navy chaplains/chaplain of the Marine Corps to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the RP rating Jan. 16 in Woodbridge, Va.
"Whether providing security support for chaplains in combat and conflict environments, providing critical logistical support for services, or directly engaging in humanitarian relief operations, our RPs continue to serve with distinction and exceed the expected," said Rear Adm. Mark L. Tidd, chief of Navy chaplains.
"We could not do what we do in ministry were it not for their faithful and dedicated service," Tidd added. Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Michael Stevens was the evening's guest speaker.
"The RP rating is one that embodies service. You are a humble force as you selflessly serve and provide for the needs of others. It's a part of your DNA. You bring humility to us in a way no other rating does," said Stevens.
He went on to discuss the importance of his faith to keep him spiritually fit and equipped to carry out his duties as MCPON. He also shared the importance of his family, being physically fit, working hard, and being humble as keys for success as a Sailor. Stevens also discussed the value of a professional reading program to keep fit.
"For the MCPON to take the time to come out to our ball, as a second class, means a lot. When he was giving his speech about humility and what it takes to be an RP, you could really see his appreciation for our rating. That especially meant a lot to me," Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Jedding remarked.
The ceremony included an anniversary video highlighting the legacy of the rating. "I applaud you for your vigilance and the faith you have provided to one another whether deployed or in garrison, and I thank you and your families for the personal sacrifices you make," said Master Chief Religious Program Specialist Dino Medler, senior enlisted leader for the rating, in the video.
"Together, as 987 RPs, both active and reserve, we are making significant contributions to our Navy and Marine Corps and building the legacy of our rating," he added.
In the video, Rear Adm. Margaret G. Kibben, deputy chief of Navy chaplains and chaplain of the Marine Corps, discussed the important role RPs play in helping the commandant of the Marine Corps deliver on his promise to keep faith with Marines, Sailors, and their families.
"You deepen the understanding of the word faith. Faith not just in God, but also in the bond of trust that you have with your Marines, Sailors, and families," said Kibben.
"We, as chaplains, would be remiss if we did not acknowledge with a great deal of gratitude that when you say, 'I've got your back, chaplain,' you epitomize the essence of keeping faith," she added.
Senior Chief Religious Program Specialist Scott Quinn, senior RP for the Marine Corps and one of the evening's hosts, reflected on the anniversary theme: "Honoring your past while forging your future."
"Since 1979, religious program specialists have responded and fought alongside Marines in Beirut, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan. As you contemplate the theme for this year's anniversary, may the rich heritage of the rating embolden you to strengthen the future force," he said.
Many retired religious program specialists were present to mark the rating's milestone. Retired Master Chief James H. Graham, was among them. Graham was instrumental in the establishment of the RP rating back in 1979.
A POW/MIA table served as a solemn reminder of those service members unable to join in the festivities. "We join together to pay our humble tribute to them and bear witness to their continued absence and the purity of their intentions to respond to their country's call to arms," Chief Religious Program Specialist Jennifer Kitson read from a script.
The ceremonial cake-cutting followed. Master Chief Thomas McComas, the Senior Enlisted RP for the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, was the longest serving RP present, and the youngest RP present, Religious Program Specialist Seaman Apprentice Jacqara Johnson, was the youngest RP present. Johnson is currently assigned to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
The evening closed with a benediction from Navy chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Coates giving thanks for the RPs "who devote themselves to endeavors more enduring than even an historic naval institution, who answer callings more consequential than any one career could ever offer."
To find photo highlights and a recording of Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Steven's remarks visit:
For more news about the Chaplain Corps, visit www.navy.mil/local/crb/.