News: Three Red Bull Chaplains share their experiences
Story by Sgt. John Angelo
Minnesota is home to many things: the Twins, lots of snow and the Red Bulls. One cornerstone of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division is the chaplains. Currently there are three Red Bull chaplains spreading Minnesotan know how to soldiers across the nation. Two of the chaplains are at the U.S. Army Chaplain Center & School, Fort Jackson, South Carolina and one is at Fort Hood, Texas.
“It’s a really unique opportunity for the Army Guard, we are supporting active duty operations,” said Lt. Col. John Morris, head chaplain, Minnesota Army and Air National Guard. “I’m really proud of them.”
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for the Minnesota National Guard because we are at the cutting edge at both the school that trains chaplains and at Fort Hood, one of the largest installations in the country, doing real world ministry,” added Morris.
Lt. Col. Tom Behling, 34th Infantry Division head chaplain, is stationed at the U.S. Army Chaplain Center & School as the National Guard Liaison and is helping other Guard chaplains to work in a regular Army environment.
A 26-year veteran, Behling joined the Minnesota National Guard in 1994 and became a chaplain in 2005. He has been deployed to Afghanistan and recently returned from a deployment with the 34th ID Headquarters to Iraq. He is using his experience and wisdom to help other soldiers and there families while serving as the liaison at the school.
“It’s a great opportunity to use my deployment experience at the school training chaplains,” said Behling. “It’s important that the active Army understands the unique challenges of being a National Guard Soldier, particularly a National Guard chaplain.”
Another part of being the National Guard Bureau liaison at the school is helping develop policy.
“It’s really rewarding,” said Behling. “I get to help students and work with the different directorates here ensuring that National Guard considerations are taken into account when different programs and policies are developed. There are some unique challenges and differences compared to those of the active component chaplaincy, such as unit structure, training opportunities, strong bonds, and Yellow Ribbon programs.”
The other Red Bull chaplain at the school is Capt. Kenath K. Harris, 34th Infantry Division deputy chaplain. He is serving as a staff group leader for the Chaplain Officer Basic Leadership Course. As an instructor at the school he trains new chaplains and chaplain candidates from the regular Army, Army Reserve and National Guard. Harris joined the Minnesota National Guard in 1989 and became a chaplain in 2006. He uses his 22 years of experience including a deployment to Ballad, Iraq in 2008-2009 with the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade in training these new chaplains.
“I feel both proud and humbled at the same time,” beamed Harris. “I’m proud I was chosen for one of two National Guard positions as instructor at the school. That’s a pretty amazing blessing. I’m humbled because I certainly don’t know all there is. I simply do my best as hard as I can, as Minnesotan’s do. I pass on the knowledge, skills, insights and lessons I’ve learned to these students. Some of the things that are learned from the other chaplains, candidates and assistants throughout the Minnesota Chaplain Corps are things that I have passed on the students here.”
“At the risk of being proud I think that Minnesota has the best Chaplain Corps in the National Guard,” added Harris.
Both Behling and Harris have been at the school since Oct. 1, 2010 and will continue at the school until September 2011.
The third chaplain, Capt. Richard Rittmaster, 34th ID family life chaplain, is the rear detachment chaplain for the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade at Ft. Hood. The 4th CAB is currently deployed to Afghanistan. While at Ft. Hood, he also provides pastoral care to the U.S. Army Operational Test Command. USAOTC is a unit that tests new military equipment used during deployments.
Rittmaster is using his 18 years of experience and deployment to Iraq with the 34th ID to help the soldiers and families at Ft. Hood.
“The majority of my work [here at Fort Hood] involves counseling and pastoral care,” said Rittmaster. “With many soldiers on their 2nd, 3rd or 4th deployments, staying resilient and connected to families presents a lot of difficulties. Clearly there is a lot of work to be done.”
He is planning nine Strong Bonds events and three single soldier events in the upcoming months to help the 4th CAB soldiers and families through the reintegration process.
“I try to help family members and the soldiers remaining on rear detachment to find purpose, perspective, hope and a connection to inner and external resources in their current circumstances,” added Rittmaster. “My training in Minnesota and my experiences in Iraq prepared me well for my current work. I am grateful to be putting those skills to work here.”
Rittmaster has been at Fort Hood since January and is scheduled to return January 2012.
These three chaplains will bring their newfound knowledge when they return and share it with the other 25 Minnesota National Guard chaplains.
“Those chaplains will come back to Minnesota with that much more experience, contributing that much more to the Army and have that much more insight on how our chaplains can train to be more effective as they go forward,” said Morris.