Vinson Chaplain Travels on a ‘Rotary Wing and a Prayer’

Story Number: NNS030617-04Release Date: 6/17/2003 10:49:00 AM
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By Journalist Seaman Devin Dorney, USS Carl Vinson Public Affairs

ABOARD USS CARL VINSON, At Sea (NNS) -- Since the early days of the Navy, chaplains have been as important to Sailors at sea as the ships they call home. In peacetime and at war, Navy chaplains provide comfort, encouragement and spiritual guidance.

Unfortunately, every Navy ship does not have a chaplain of every faith in its seabag, but that hasn't kept chaplains from supporting the spiritual well being of Sailors.

Historically, Navy chaplains have used any means necessary to visit ships requesting their presence.

USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Command Chaplain Cmdr. Jerome Dillon, a Roman Catholic priest, tackles the problem in a simple but traditional way. He visits every ship in the battle group requesting a chaplain of Roman Catholic faith by catching a ride on the 'Holy Helo,' the nickname of his haze-gray angel.

Even the helicopter crews take pride in assisting Dillon with his objective. "You're delivering a service to the other ships that don't have it on a regular basis. It makes you feel good that way," said Senior Chief Aviation Antisubmarine Warfare Operator (AW/SW/NAC) Mark Jones, a Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron 8 aircrewman.

The short chopper ride makes Dillon easily accessible to battle-group Sailors and gives them the opportunity to worship in their chosen faiths.

"We try to give the Sailors access to as many opportunities for worship as possible," said Dillon. "It offers them the opportunity to exercise their religious preferences."

Although getting around the battle group may prove tough, Dillon understands the importance of his holy mission and strives to visit the floating congregation on a regular basis.

"I go as often as I can. We visit different ships every couple of weeks," he said.

While aboard the other ships, Dillon performs mass, gives communion and ensures Sailors have an opportunity for confession.

The country's current involvement in the global war on terrorism makes the service even more meaningful than usual.

Even though we may not be in the middle of the action, our Sailors are still affected, Dillon said. "For many, there is a greater sense of awareness of their spiritual needs."

As long as it is important to Sailors, Dillon will carry on the 228-year Navy tradition of bringing compassion, understanding and spiritual leadership to his battle-group congregation at sea.

The Carl Vinson battle group is currently deployed in the western Pacific Ocean as part of America's standing commitment to maintain peace and stability in cooperation with allies and friends in the region.

For related news, visit the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Navy NewsStand page at

Cdr. Jerome Dillon, U.S. Navy chaplain from South Sioux City, Neb., conducts Roman Catholic Mass aboard the fast combat support ship USS Sacramento (AOE 1
030407-N-5555F-038 Pacific Ocean (Apr. 7, 2003) -- Cdr. Jerome Dillon, U.S. Navy chaplain from South Sioux City, Neb., conducts Roman Catholic Mass aboard the fast combat support ship USS Sacramento (AOE 1), part of USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Carrier Strike Group "Holy Helo" religious ministries program. The Holy Helo program is coordinated by the aircraft carrier's senior Chaplain and conducts visits to other ships within the strike group to conduct religious services. Carl Vinson and the Sacramento are deployed in the western Pacific Ocean conducting mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Martin Fuentes. (RELEASED)
April 9, 2003
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