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    Naval Hospital Bremerton Religious Program Specialists Provide Insight into Rating

    Naval Hospital Bremerton Religious Program Specialists Provide Insight into Rating

    Photo By Petty Officer 3rd Class Meagan Christoph | 200113-N-XT693-001 NAVAL HOSPITAL BREMERTON, Wash. (Jan. 13, 2020) Religious Program...... read more read more



    Story by Seaman Meagan Christoph 

    Naval Hospital Bremerton

    Since the inception of the Religious Program Specialist (RP) rate 41 years ago, the dedication and continuous support provided by the RPs to the Navy Chaplain Corps remains steadfast.

    The RPs assigned to Naval Hospital Bremerton (NHB) are prime examples of that commitment.

    Religious Program Specialists 2nd Class Christopher George and Pricilla Vasquez are two of the approximately 760 men and women in the rate who provide spiritual maintenance to their command – as well as the Fleet – long considered an important necessity for a warfighters' well-being.

    George graduated from Channelview High School, Channelview, Texas in 2015, and joined the Navy as an RP in 2016 after being inspired by a co-worker.

    “I was working at a golf course after high school and the guy that used to be a manager was retired Navy,” said George. “…The Navy worked out for him and I thought, ‘I'm going to join’ and enlisted.”

    Before being assigned to NHB, George was stationed overseas with Marine Aircraft Group 12 (MAG 12) at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. George described the differences in what an RP does depending where they’re stationed.

    “I was in charge of being the chaplain’s bodyguard while in Japan, dealing with a lot of like force protection exercises,” commented George, noting that providing physical security for chaplains during field exercises and in combat environments is a main reason why there is an RP rate. “It’s different from a ship or shore duty here at the hospital.”

    George also explained that he worked as a mentor and acted as the direct line of communication from the Marines to the chaplain.

    “Wherever the Marines went, we had to go,” said George. “They deal with a lot, especially because you've got 18 and 19 year olds barely leaving home for the first time. They're in Japan, or for example, when we participated in Cobra Gold a training exercise held in Thailand during Feb., 2018. It was good that we went so they could talk to the chaplain, because it's all confidential. I'm more of a liaison, and ‘chaps’ isn't going to have the closest relationship to the Marines, like I am being enlisted and he's not.”

    George was tasked with providing support to the chaplain through helping with administrative work, communicating with Marines, and scheduling appointments and helping with different events and services. He described that there were a lot of things that impacted him while in Japan, but there was a service he helped organize that meant a lot to him.

    “One of the Marines had passed away while on deployment,” said George. “The chaplain and I were able to go out into the field and conduct a memorial service. It was something greater than me, because I didn't know this Marine or any of those Marines, but being able to go over there was a good feeling.”

    The RPs serve not only their country by being in the Navy, but also God. They are in charge of preparing devotional materials, organizing faith-based events, maintaining religious records, and handling the personal security for Navy Chaplains as George attested. RP duties also include supporting clergy of all faiths in the facilitation of religious activities; maintaining records, ecclesiastical documents and references for various faith groups; operating, managing and maintaining religious ministry facilities afloat and ashore; assisting with preparation of devotional and religious educational materials and audiovisual displays; handling all phases of the logistical support requirements for religious programs aboard ships, at shore stations and hospitals, and for Marine Corps units and other sea service commands; operating libraries and publicizing the command’s religious activities; and working under the oversight of Navy Chaplains.

    Vasquez, like George, was also assigned to work with service members, dependents and others in different parts of the world before coming to NHB.

    Vasquez graduated from John Jay High School, San Antonio, Texas in 2003, and joined the Navy in 2008. She was initially an undesignated seaman where she was assigned to Deck Department. Sailors that are undesignated seaman do not have a rate and are able to strike, or test, and apply for a job in the fleet.

    “I was in deck for six months maybe,” said Vasquez. “I picked my rate, struck RP, got sent to the ministry team on the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).”

    Shortly after striking RP, Vasquez transferred to USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), where she deployed on a humanitarian mission to Haiti in Jan., 2010. She assisted in providing disaster relief after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake caused damage near the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

    “My role as an RP was to provide religious care at the airport, walk around with the chaplain, and (help) unload supplies,” said Vasquez. “Whenever a helicopter would land, we would unload the supplies, get them onto the ground, and prepare them to give to people in need.”

    The role that George and Vasquez play at NHB looks different compared to their past assignments in the Navy, but the spiritual impact and willingness to serve is all the same.

    “During the check-in process at NHB we have Sailors fill out a religious needs assessment,” explained Vasquez, “That basically tells us what their religious needs are. We tell them, ‘the chapel is open 24/7.’ We tell Sailors when we offer services, let them know we have religious materials on our shelves, and tell them they can take anything. If they need something that they don't see based on their religion, they can let us know and we can get it for them.”

    Both RP’s stressed that their Pastoral Care office is a safe space where all staff members – Sailors, civil service, contractors, and volunteers – along with retired beneficiaries, dependents, and those from other commands, can be themselves and have a confidential, safe environment to share their thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

    “We're not judgmental here,” said George. “You can come in with anything and if we don't even know the answer, we can get it elsewhere.”

    Just as it was 41 years ago, Jan. 15, 1979, the spiritual support provided by NHB’s Pastoral Care’s RPs remains the same and steadfast in providing to those during their time of need.



    Date Taken: 01.14.2020
    Date Posted: 01.14.2020 17:47
    Story ID: 359192
    Location: BREMERTON , WA, US 

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