FORT HUACHUCA, Arizona — At this Army installation, nourishing the soldier’s soul is just as critical as making sure the soldier is ready for his or her mission.
That’s done on Fort Huachuca by the performance and availability of a myriad of religious services for various faith groups and anyone who wants to worship.
If a religious service is not performed on the installation, chaplains will connect soldiers, their families and civilians with a source that will provide them with the spiritual program they’re looking for.
“At the Chaplains Corps, the slogan is ‘perform or provide,’ “said Fort Huachuca Garrison Chaplain Lt. Col. Shay Worthy. “The services that we can perform, we perform. We perform what we can. But we provide everything. Which means (if we can’t perform something) we connect soldiers to the right source.
“Anyone who comes to me as the garrison chaplain and says this is my faith, here’s what I need, I can say, ‘I can’t do that for you but I can make it happen for you.’ “
It seems that some kind of religious or spiritual connection is being made on Fort Huachuca all the time.
Whether Catholic, Jewish, Muslim or Norse Pagan, there is a religious service available at the installation, or at least a place where one can worship privately or meditate.
Last week, Worthy hosted the annual visit to Fort Huachuca of Bishop Neal J. Buckon of the Archdiocese for the Military, and both men talked about the importance of religion and spirituality in the life of a soldier.
“When a young man or woman puts on the uniform and raises their hand and comes to serve our country, we don’t believe that they should have to forfeit their constitutional rights,” Buckon said. “So we have a Chaplain Corps that guarantees the free exercise of religion.”
Indeed, the first item in the Department of Defense’s Instruction 1300.17, titled “Religious Liberty in the Military Services,” states: “Establishes DoD policy in furtherance of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, recognizing that Service members have the right to observe the tenets of their religion, or to observe no religion at all.”
It seems that the Army has been addressing the issue of religion and spirituality for centuries. Buckon mentioned George Washington requesting chaplains for his troops. And in a 1941 speech at Trinity College, George C. Marshall, Army chief of staff under presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman and secretary of state and secretary of defense under Truman, said:
“The soldier’s heart, the soldier’s spirit, the soldier’s soul, are everything. Unless the soldier’s soul sustains him he cannot be relied on and will fail himself and his commander and his country in the end.”
Fort Huachuca is making sure soldiers who want nourishment for their souls get it. There are religious services on post for Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Norse Pagans, Worthy said. There is also a meditation room in the chapel available to all religious and spiritual beliefs.
The chapels on post are for everyone.
“The chapels in the Army are neutral spaces,” Worthy said. “We provide religious support to all religions.”
He explained that the main chapel on post has the stations of the cross. The latter, mostly a Christian belief, takes an individual through the different phases of the Passion of Christ, which is the arrest, trial, suffering and crucifixion of Christ. The stations are displayed inside wooden boxes that ring the chapel’s walls. However, the boxes can be closed so that the chapel can become a neutral space for other religious services. There are two other chapels on post, Kino Chapel and the Prosser Village Chapel.
Additionally, aside from Jewish religious services at the installation, the Army is also offering Jewish Religious Instruction on Fort Huachuca for anyone who is interested. Rabbi Benzion Shemtov, who contracts with Fort Huachuca for religious services, began teaching the classes in October, said Morgana Biddix, who works at Fort Huachuca’s Religious Support Office. Biddix showed two workbooks being used in the courses, one called “Journey of the Soul,” about the Jewish afterlife, and the other “Secrets of the Bible.”
“It is kind of interesting that little Fort Huachuca here in Sierra Vista is providing Jewish religious education to all of the Army through this program,” Worthy said.
While most of the religious services are performed by individuals the installation contracts with, Worthy said there is an “active duty chaplain” on post who is also a Catholic priest.
“He is also a unit chaplain, he has all the responsibility of caring for his unit and the congregation,” Worthy said. “But we also contract with a Catholic priest who comes and helps with the services because the garrison thought it was too much for one person to handle.”
Buckon mentioned that because 22 is the average age in the Army, Worthy and other chaplains at Fort Huachuca have a “young adult ministry” to attend to.
With a laugh, Worthy said that social media is the key to reaching his audience.
“We’re a huge training base, we have a lot of initial term soldiers who are younger than 22,” Worthy said. “Like every young adult, they are kind of seeking more. The search for significance is something we all go though.”
Chaplain Col. Paul Jaedicke, a senior command chaplain and the NETCOM command chaplain at Fort Huachuca, agreed with Worthy that chaplains must connect with their soldiers by going to them.
“This is a unique base because it’s a training base,” Jaedicke said. “At the end of the day, I agree with what Shay said. Our most effective means of engaging soldiers is to get to where they are. They’re not necessarily going to come to the chapels. … When you’re interacting with soldiers that’s when you start to build the relationships and that’s when they feel more comfortable talking to you.
“I would add that we are chaplains to all, but we’re pastors to some. We’re here for all soldiers, family members and civilians. But because of our religious faith we are only pastoring to those who give us permission to provide direct spiritual care.”