Lieutenant John Morris is the 34th Infantry Division Command Chaplain with the Minnesota Army National Guard.
Thank you for your prayers. Winter greetings from damp, cold North Fort Lewis [Washington]. We concluded our Ash Wednesday services this evening. Chaplain (LTC) Coe, a Roman Catholic Priest, was gracious enough to cross the installation and offer Mass for almost one hundred of our soldiers. The Protestants followed the Roman Catholic Ash Wednesday service with a service of our own in the "Red Bull Chapel."
We use a World War II chapel as "our" chapel. It is a blessing and the
soldiers love it. We offer Bible Studies in the morning, 0645-0715, Monday-Friday, and evening programs, Monday-Saturday. On Sundays we hold worship services. The chapel is a beehive of activity. "Battlerhythm" is a word we use a lot here. We are trying to establish our "battlerhythm." That's the Army's way of saying we are trying to settle into a new routine, and find some sort of balance for our lives. We are pulled from early morning, until late at night by demands of training. We have soldiers going in dozens of directions: to the firing range, to the driver's training, to the field sanitation class, to the Iraqi language class, to the signal intercept class, etc., etc., In between we schedule meetings and briefings.
With almost 900 soldiers on the ground, and more joining us daily, you can imagine how complicated managing this training can become. Somehow we manage to get everyone to where they need to be, mainly because of a cadre of NCOs who manage the chaos and keep us headed in the same direction. Nonetheless it is hard to find a "battlerhythm." Leaving the comforts and routines of home is like turning one's life upside down. Adopting the new routines of training takes adjustment. Some of us adjust gracefully, others have to be pulled along. All will adjust, as the Army does not adjust to the individual's needs.
So, we learn to walk everywhere, as we don't have cars. We learn to eat with hundreds of others and we absorb volumes of information everyday. From identifying hidden bombs to treating the wounds of injured soldiers, we go to "training" everyday.
All of this builds up to major exercises to train us how to function as a higher headquarters coordinating the operations of thousands of soldiers. Every once in a while we pause and get a glimpse of the enormity of what we are training for, i.e., war, and we are sobered by our responsibilities. I think you'd be proud of your citizen-soldiers. Their morale is very high despite the rain, the cold, the constant demands, and the new routines. They are a resilient group with a great attitude. I am often impressed with the "can do" spirit and the eagerness to set aside personal agendas to accomplish a greater good. Their dedication to learning the skills needed to master their mission is something to behold. It is humbling to serve with men and women who have given up the comforts of civilian careers to serve the nation. I count it an honor to be in their midst.
So on Ash Wednesday, Christians around the world "give up" important things in their lives to focus on the most important thing: our relationship with God. The Red Bulls grapple with giving up their civilian lives in order to effectively serve the nation as soldiers.
Please pray for our health, our homes, and our organization that we could accomplish all the training before us, and deploy from here fully prepared for the missions ahead of us.
God Bless. *
"Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less." --Robert E. Lee