News: Chaplain exchange promotes brotherhood during MEFEX 2014
Story by Cpl. Matthew Manning
POHANG, Republic of Korea – Republic of Korea Marine Corps chaplains and U.S. Navy chaplains assigned to the U.S. Marines took part in a chaplain exchange March 20 in Pohang, Republic of Korea during Marine Expeditionary Force Exercise 2014.
MEFEX 14 is an umbrella exercise, overseeing the series of ROK-U.S. bilateral and multi-lateral activities and engagements on the Korean peninsula including Korean Marine Exchange Programs, a command post exercise, maritime prepositioning force offload exercise Freedom Banner 2014 and amphibious assault exercise Ssang Yong 2014.
“When we came to the Republic of Korea for this exercise, we only brought two Protestant chaplains and were in need of a Catholic priest so our Marines could have the opportunity to attend a Catholic mass,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. John Owen, chaplain for 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF. “So our first interaction with the ROK Marine chaplains was really from a need for us to provide for our Marines.”
Once the ROK Marine chaplains discovered the U.S. Marines taking part in MEFEX brought chaplains to the field, the ROK chaplains were eager to meet with and share experiences with the U.S. Navy chaplains, according to U.S. Navy Capt. Terry C. Gordon, chaplain for III MEF.
“I think the interest they have is to understand how we do field ministry and the importance of understanding the ministry of presence, being with the Marines in the field,” said Gordon. “The ROK Marine chaplains are very capable and very gifted ministers but mainly in the chapel setting. They really want to understand what field ministry looks like when their units deploy to combat. Many of the questions they asked were about combat experience and how we provide ministry in a situation where we are away from a chapel setting.”
As part of the chaplain exchange, Gordon and Owen shared personnel examples of field ministry and how it is performed.
“We showed the ROK chaplains our set up in the field and explained to them that when U.S. Marines go anywhere, they take their chaplain,” said Owen. “They were very interested in the field kits we use and to see that we carry supplies are to minister to a wide variety of beliefs.”
For a chaplain in the field, sometimes the best substitute for a chapel is whatever the chaplain can create, according to Owen.
“We often have to make do with what we can bring or what we can find around us,” said Owen. “Sometimes we are able to bring a field altar with us, other times we will use the hood of a Humvee or a boxes of MREs to create an altar to conduct services in the field.”
Although there may remain some differences between ROK Marine Corps and U.S. Navy chaplain corps, the motivation, regardless of the nation, for all chaplains remains the same, according to Owen.
“At the end of the day, it is all about caring for Marines, sailors or anyone who is in need we may come across,” said Owen.