<BGSOUND SRC="givthnks.mid" AUTOSTART=FALSE LOOP=FALSE ALT="'Give Thanks' plays in the background.">

My First Year As An Army Chaplain

by Chaplain (CPT) Michael L. White

Amazingly enough, as of 13 June 1997, it has been one whole year since I entered active duty as an Army Chaplain (formerly known as an Appointment Beyond the Local Church, but now known as an Extension Ministry); and what a year it has been! Of course, one of the highlights of my first year was going back home for my first Annual Conference as an Extension Minister. What a wonderfully warm, accepting, and encouraging reception I received, too! It appears all my fears of isolation and alienation were simply unfounded. That made it worth everyone of the 950+ miles' trip back! The only drawback was being limited to a very brief identification of my ministry setting to the delegates of the Conference. Thirty seconds are hardly enough to do it justice! Hence, the purpose of this article is to give a more detailed description of my ministry setting. Perhaps other Extension Ministers will want to do the same for their ministry setting in future issues of the Advocate.

Within a week after my arrival at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, I was assigned to a Field Artillery battalion (the 2-2 "Big Deuce" battalion) whose mission is to support the live-fire training of enlisted recruits in Advanced Initial Training (AIT) at the Field Artillery Training Center (FATC) and officer recruits in the Officer Basic Course (OBC) of the U. S. Army Field Artillery Training School (USAFAS--pronounced USE-a-FAS). Both schools train men to be artillerymen.

The "Big Deuce" battalion has three significant distinctions: 1) being one of only two Army organizations authorized a live mascot, a donkey we call Big Deuce VI--yes, he had five predecessors--signifying the unit's history as a Mule Artillery unit in the early 1900s, along with his little sidekick, a goat we call Short Round; 2) firing the largest number of rounds per year in all of the Army (ca. 60,000); 3) has a salute battery with howitzers named for Medal of Honor winners from Oklahoma which fires all the salutes at important Fort Sill functions like General Officer changes of command and holiday celebrations such as Independence Day, etc.; and 4) being the unit of assignment for the author of the official Army song, "When Those Caissons Go Rolling Along." Talk about being rich in history! Of course, that doesn't even mention historic Fort Sill, often referred to in books, films, and documentaries about the American West, where Apache warrior, Geronimo, lived out his last years, died, and is buried, and of Oklahoma being the destination for the Great Indian Removal campaign in the mid-1800s! I could spend many more pages just telling about the history here!

In addition to serving the 2-2, I was also given the duty of area coverage for the Officer Student Battalion and their families, where the OBC students are assigned during their artillery training, which also includes the Officer Advanced Course (OAC) students and their families, who are undergoing training to be artillery commanders, and the Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Academy, which trains junior enlisted soldiers to be future NCOs, and it trains junior NCOs to be future senior NCOs.

With all this territory to cover, I stay QUITE busy! In the past year, I have counseled seemingly countless couples and individuals alike on a broad range of topics, offered hope to a few suicidal individuals, comforted many who were bereaved, preached in both the field and chapel settings (as well as a few off-post churches when I was invited), taught a couple of Bible Studies to the Protestant Youth of the Chapel Sunday School class, conducted two ceremonies for the reaffirmation of wedding vows, taught a segment in two marriage enrichment training events, conducted three services of child baptism, conducted three battalion prayer breakfasts, participated in one memorial service and conducted another, conducted three retirees' funerals, and offered public prayers at numerous unit and post-wide functions. Of course, I've also attended many meetings and completed a plethora of reports! Furthermore, the Post Chaplain also tasked me to be the creator and webmaster for the Ft. Sill Ministry Team World Wide Web site (look for the URL at the end of this article), as well as being the project officer for the National Prayer Breakfast, which was held on 18 February 1997, at the Fort Sill Officers' Club, and featured Mr. Josh McDowell as the guest speaker; and besides all these duties, I've also been invited to and attended countless social events. As you can see, it's been a busy first year in the Army Chaplaincy for me.

There's much more I could relate about my ministry setting, but I think this will suffice for a concise, yet detailed, overview. If you want to know more, I compose and send out by email a periodic, brief review of current events in my ministry and family, which I call my "Chaplain Ministry Update." I already have quite a large list of recipients with plenty of space for more. If you would like to begin receiving this and other occasional emails, which I forward along for information's sake, I welcome your subscription. You need only send me an email outlining your request to receive it.

Also, if you want to know more about me personally, or if you want to read my weekly "Just a Thought" devotional quotes, which I publish on paper for my unit members and on the Internet for the rest of the world, you can access that and more at my personal web site. The URL is listed below for both my personal web site and the Fort Sill MT web site. For optimal display, you need at least a 486 computer with a sound card installed and either of the following web browsers: Netscape 3.0 or later or Internet Explorer 3.0 or later.

For more information about anything in this article, please feel free to email me at mlwhite700@ibm.net, or you may write or phone me at:

Ft. Sill, OK 73503

Internet Sites:

Chaplain Michael L. White Is Online!
http://www.angelfire.com/al/mlwhite700/index.html (No longer active)

Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Ministry Team Home Page
http://sill-www.army.mil/chapel/fsokchap.htm (No longer active)