One hundred years later, Chief of Chaplains Maj. Gen. Douglas L. Carver — a Rome native — and Chief of Chaplains and Regimental Sgt. Maj. Tommy Marrero recently joined more than 100 chaplains and chaplain assistants serving on religious support teams throughout Baghdad for a celebratory dinner at Camp Victory’s Joint Visitors Bureau.
“We have come a very long way,” said Marrero.
“It’s really cool that Chaplain Carver and Sgt. Maj. Marrero came out here to celebrate with us,” said Sgt. Michael Campbell, a chaplain assistant with the Multi-National Corps-Iraq chaplain’s office. “It shows that even though we’re only chaplain assistants, they still honor what we do up to the highest level.”
Carver explained that chaplains would not be able to provide the quality support they do if it weren’t for the assistants who are by their sides.
“They really set the conditions for the chaplain,” Carver said. “They provide protection to the chaplain, as well as do everything else that is asked of them as a soldier in the United States Army.”
“Before you can be an effective chaplain assistant, you have to be an effective soldier first,” said Marrero.
Carver agreed that soldiering comes first, but chaplain assistants continue to go above and beyond to make sure service members are provided with quality spiritual and faith-based care.
“I was visiting (Multi-National Division-South), and soldiers had taken a tent and turned it into a place called ‘Holy Joe’s.’ You could walk in 24 hours a day and get a hot cup of coffee, watch a movie or just sit and relax,” said Carver. “Here were these soldiers who asked themselves ‘What can I do to improve the life of our community?’ It is amazing.”
Carver commended chaplain assistants for their dedication in trying times, especially while serving in the midst of a war. With the stresses of war, Carver said chaplain assistants here can serve as a first line of defense for chaplains by screening soldiers who may be struggling.
“They can talk with their fellow soldiers and determine if they need to see a chaplain, or they may decide that soldier needs to seek medical attention right away,” Carver said. “They are there to help get that person the care he needs.”
Before the evening concluded, Carver reminded all chaplain assistants in attendance about the great things they continue to do for chaplains and service members.
“Chaplains assistants have that willingness to do and try anything to accomplish the mission,” said Carver. “You should be very proud.”