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    Navy’s Oldest Staff Corps recognized at Naval Hospital Bremerton

    Navy’s Oldest Staff Corps recognized at Naval Hospital Bremerton

    Photo By Douglas Stutz | Lt. Andrew Burns, Navy Chaplain Corps assigned to Naval Hospital Bremerton Pastoral...... read more read more

    The Navy Chaplain Corps distinction of being the Navy’s oldest staff corps was recognized at Naval Hospital Bremerton by celebrating their 243 years of service on Nov. 28, 2018.

    Navy chaplains Cmdr. Williams Hlavin and Lt. Andrew Burns, along with Religious Program Specialist 2nd Classes Allison Phillips and Priscilla Vasquez are assigned to NHB’s Pastoral Care department fulfilling a broad range of duties to support NHB’s mission of keeping warfighters and their families, past and present, ready, healthy and on the job.

    “It is my honor to introduce a small but mighty force serving this fine institution. We are blessed to be part of the team and family that is NHB and provide the vital spiritual care factor in the healthcare equation,” said Hlavin, noting that the role of Navy chaplain has been transformed and grown since its inception based on the needs of those they serve which includes four key functions.

    Those four core capabilities are to; Provide for the spiritual needs of one’s own faith to include worship services and sermons as conditions permit; Facilitate for the spiritual needs of all faith; Care for all with pastoral care and counseling regardless of faith affiliation or spiritual expression; and Advise the commanding officer and key leaders on subjects of religion, ethics, morality, and unit morale.

    Helping the chaplains with their duties are the religious program specialists, who not only provide physical security for Navy chaplains in combat environments, but manage, support and coordinate many other aspects of chaplain duties at NHB.

    The history of the Navy Chaplain Corps dates back to 1775 when the second article of the Navy Regulations was adopted, stating that, “The commanders of the ships of the 13 United Colonies are to take care that divine services be performed twice a day on board and a sermon preached on Sunday’s, unless bad weather or other extraordinary accidents prevent.”

    Although chaplains were not specifically mentioned in this article, Congress implied that an ordained clergyman be part of ship’s company, which happened with the establishment of the United States Navy Chaplains Corps.

    The ordained clergy are commissioned naval officers. Their principal purpose is to “promote the spiritual, religious, moral, and personal well-being of the members of the Department of the Navy.” Additionally, the Chaplain Corps also provides chaplains to the U.S. Coast Guard.

    There are also two Navy chaplains– Capt. Joseph T. O’Callahan and Lt. Vincent Robert Capodanno – who have been awarded the Medal of Honor.

    O’Callahan was serving onboard USS Franklin (CV13) off the coast of Japan when the carrier came under attack from Imperial Japanese aircraft in 1945. He calmly braved flames and twisted metal to aid his men and ship, as he made his way through smoke-filled corridors and on the open flight deck with exploding ordnance all around. He ministered to the wounded and dying, comforting and encouraging men of all faiths; he organized and led firefighting crew into the blazing inferno on the flight deck; he directed the jettisoning of live ammunition and the flooding of the magazine; he manned a hose to cool hot, armed bombs rolling dangerously on the listing deck, continuing his effort, despite searing, suffocating smoke which forced men to fall back gasping and imperiled other who replaced them. He inspired others in the face of almost certain death. O’Callahan was presented with the Medal of Honor at the White House by President Harry S. Truman on Jan. 23, 1946 and passed away in 1964.

    It was just three years later that Capodanno was killed in action on Sept. 4, 1967, in Quang Tin Province, Republic of Vietnam, when attached to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division.

    In response to reports that the 2d Platoon of M Company was in danger of being overrun by a massed enemy assaulting force, Capodanno, also Fleet Marine Force qualified, left the relative safety of the company command post and ran through an open area raked by fire directly to the beleaguered platoon. Disregarding the intense enemy small-arms, automatic-weapon and mortar fire, he moved about the battlefield administering last rites to the dying and giving medical aid to the wounded. When an exploding mortar round inflicted painful multiple wounds to his arms and legs, and severed a portion of his right hand, he steadfastly refused all medical aid. Instead, he directed the corpsmen to help the wounded, and continued to move about the battlefield providing encouragement by voice and example. Upon encountering a wounded corpsman in the direct line of fire from an enemy machine gunner approximately 15 yards away, he rushed to aid and assist the mortally wounded corpsman. At that instant, only inches away, he was struck down by a machine gun burst.

    Fast Frigate USS Capodanno (FF 1093) was named in his honor, as USS O’Callahan (FF 1051) recognizes Chaplain O’Callahan.

    There are also four other ships honoring Navy chaplains; USS Rentz (FF-46) named after World War Two Navy Chaplain George S. Rentz (1882-1942), destroyer escort USS Kirkpatrick (DE 318), named in honor of Chaplain Thomas L. Kirkpatrick, killed in action aboard USS Arizona; USS Schmitt (DE-676/APD 76) named for Father Aloysius H. Schmitt; and Guided Missile Destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58), named for Father John Francis Laboon, a captain in the Chaplains Corps.

    “I’m not sure everyone realizes how significant it is that our chaplains have been serving, 243 years strong and counting, since the inception of our Navy,” said Capt. Jeffrey Bitterman, NHB commanding officer, noting that there are eight distinctive staff corps, yet the Chaplain Corps claims their respect with the longest tenure of service to the Fleet.

    “Our Navy chaplains’ contributions are so much more than religious ministry. We are indebted to them for our spiritual growth, guidance, counsel, and dedication to staff well-being and resilience. They have also made a huge influence supporting all of our branch health clinics to coordinating the Caregiver Occupational Stress Control program and training trainers for staff resilience. You are force multipliers promoting and enhancing force readiness. I thank you for a job well done and all you do,” Bitterman added.

    Just as it was 243 years ago in 1775, Chaplain Hlavin, Chaplain Burns and the entire Navy Chaplain Corps continue to answer the call to serve, bringing their own spirituality and faith perspective to those in need of all faith.



    Date Taken: 11.28.2018
    Date Posted: 11.30.2018 16:29
    Story ID: 301866
    Location: BREMERTON , WA, US 

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