By Matthew Langston
Leader’s Training Course
When Cadet Alex Davie arrived at the Leader’s Training Course, the challenging curriculum shook his confidence and brought him uneasiness.
“I was kind of getting down and feeling fear and feeling less confident in myself,” said Davie, a student at Kentucky State University and a member of the ROTC at the University of Kentucky.
He went to a religious service at O’Neill Chapel seeking some divine motivation.
“The message and the Bible study afterwards re-energized my spirit,” he said.
As Cadets work their way through the Leader’s Training Course, they may find themselves at times becoming physically and mentally weary. As pressure sets in, the chaplain corps is there to help Cadets cope with any issues they may experience.
First Lt. Andres Ramos, the chaplain candidate with Alpha Company, said the chaplain corps is important for the Cadets of LTC because for many of them, this is one of the first military experiences they have in their life. He said the customs of the Army can create culture shock, leading to emotions such as frustration and the desire to quit.
But the chaplain is there to encourage the Cadets and boost their morale.
“The spirit goes down,” Ramos said. “The chaplain is there to alleviate that.”
Maj. Mike Cox, the chief chaplain for LTC, works with his staff to provide religious support to the Cadets as they spend time on post. As the Army’s chaplain corps grows close to 1,800 chaplains and 1,800 chaplain assistants on active duty, Cox receives some support from a deputy chaplain trainer, Tony Willems, and from the seven chaplain candidates embedded within each of the seven companies that will come through LTC.
Cox said one of the major goals of the chaplain corps is to take care of people and their religious needs, including visiting and taking sacraments to the wounded, and performing ceremonies for the dead in accordance with their personal beliefs. For the Cadets of LTC, they can visit the chapel for many types of support to help deal with any issues.
Although he is Baptist, Ramos said it is his duty to support and provide for those with other religions, so they can receive spiritual support. Ramos said one of the most important parts of his job was to uphold the freedoms of each Cadet, regardless of their religion.
“Every Soldier and every person has the constitutional right of free exercise of religion,” Ramos said. “We protect that.”
In addition to protecting these rights, Cox said meeting the needs of the Cadets is also a major goal.
“What makes it important is that the Cadets will come here with a religious belief or thought or theory that is important to them, and that’s what makes it important to us,” Cox said. “If they come here and they can practice what they believe, they can honor their faith, their God, then they’re going to go out and they’re going to be able to perform better in life and in their job.”
With the Army being religiously diverse, Cox said the chapel does more worship style services than just denominational ones to try and include all religions. These worship styles include traditional services with hymns, liturgical services with special need in how that group performs specific events such as the Lord’s Supper, and also special services for groups such as the Latter-Day Saints, who may do specific things that do not fall into a larger category.
Along with Christian services, they also perform Islamic services with a space in the chapel and can transport Jewish Cadets to a service held by a rabbi on post. With the many types of religion, people are sometimes invited on post to aid in a service or study for that particular religion. Ramos said there are regulatory guidelines for each religion and before a person can be invited on post to hold a religious service for a certain religion, they must meet the requirements of those guidelines.
During in-processing, Cadets are asked to specify a religion, which helps Cox to try and meet the needs of each Cadet. If a Cadet is not part of a religion that makes up the majority 80 percent of religions, they are encouraged to visit the chapel and let Cox and his staff know what type of religion they follow so they can receive religious support as well.
“We work to find a way to meet the requirements of their faith traditions,” Cox said.
Another important part of being a chaplain is the power of confidentiality, which Cox said nobody else has, including doctors and counselors. As Cadets come to speak with the chaplain, many of the problems they are dealing with are adjustment issues with leaving their personal life and coming to LTC. People are protected with what they decide to tell the chaplain, and even non-religious people and atheists can come and speak to a chaplain, as it is considered an act of conscience which is protected under the confidentiality policy.
“So a person can come and talk to us and hopefully be confident that whatever is said in that arena is between them and the chaplain,” Cox said.
As the training schedule for the Cadets becomes more complex and busier, Cox, a chaplain of 12 years, tries to cater the best he can to their needs for religion. He said they work to make everything as convenient as possible for the cadets, even offering multiple times for services to work around training.
“If we walk out of here and we have provided people an opportunity to practice what they believe in a manner consistent with how they believe, and the person in the Army is better off because of it, then that is success,” Cox said.