Chaplains Use Alternative Events to Reach Soldiers At War

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Chaplain Capt. Martin Cho, battalion chaplain, 325th Brigade Support Battalion, 25th ID, offers an early morning prayer to Soldiers
Chaplain (Capt.) Martin Cho, battalion chaplain, 325th Brigade Support Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, offers an early morning prayer to Soldiers participating in his monthly five kilometer spiritual run at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq, July 13.

For Sgt. Chadwick Potts, deployment hasn’t sidetracked his spiritual growth. The Wausau, Wis., native and his wife have completed a series of spiritual devotionals since he deployed. They also discuss bible readings daily by email and telephone.

“For us, deployment has enhanced our spiritual relationship,” said Potts, a chaplain’s assistant with the 25th Infantry Division’s 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion. “At home, we’re occupied with our four boys,” he continued. “Deployment has allowed me to grow [spiritually] more than I ever imagined.”

Soldiers of the 25th ID 325th Brigade Support Battalion complete a five kilometer spiritual run at FOB Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq.
Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division’s 325th Brigade Support Battalion complete a five kilometer spiritual run at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq, July 13.

Not all Soldiers, however, are as disciplined as Potts. They also may only have intermittent access to phones and computers. For many, the rigors of the job and the unpredictability of schedules make finding time for spiritual maintenance difficult. That’s a challenge for 3rd Brigade’s chaplains – a challenge they addressed recently with a day of non-traditional spiritual events.

Brigade chaplains coordinated and participated in an early morning spiritual run and a late afternoon musical concert for Soldiers, Airmen and civilians at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq, July 13. Chaplain (Capt.) Martin Cho spearheaded the spiritual run while chaplains (Capt.) Scott Smith and (Maj.) Scott Sterling coordinated and performed at the outdoor concert.

Soldiers of the Gospel Service Choir gather for a prayer before performing at Worshipalooza, an outdoor music concert for Soldiers, Airmen and civilians at FOB Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq.
Soldiers of the Gospel Service Choir gather for a prayer before performing at Worshipalooza, an outdoor music concert for Soldiers, Airmen and civilians at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq, July 13.

Cho’s five kilometer pre-dawn spiritual run consisted of a pre-run prayer, a thorough stretch, an animated jog and a closing prayer as Soldiers re-hydrated against the back-drop of a remarkable Iraq sunrise. For Cho, a native of Korea serving his second combat deployment, the run is his unique way to provide Soldiers with a different spiritual outlet.

“The run is important,” explained Cho, battalion chaplain, 325th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “Not all Soldiers have the opportunity to participate in our various worship services because of the demands of their jobs,” he explained. “This run provides those who can’t get to services with another type of spiritual outlet,” he said. “My hope is that every Soldier who participates, at least for a moment, that each of them is open to God and grows spiritually. To me, spiritual strength is the most important aspect not only of every person, but of every Soldier.”

Chaplain Maj. Scott Sterling, brigade chaplain, 3rd Infantry BCT, 25th ID, and members of the Ohana Chapel Praise Team perform at Worshipalooza, outdoor music concert.
Chaplain (Maj.) Scott Sterling (vocals left), brigade chaplain, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, and members of the Ohana Chapel Praise Team perform at Worshipalooza, an outdoor music concert for Soldiers, Airmen and civilians at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq, July 13.

Cho’s colleagues agreed, and their collective desire to provide a unique spiritual event in an alternative setting spawned “Worshipalooza,” an outdoor concert that kicked-off about 12 hours after Cho’s Soldiers finished the spiritual run.

“Our vision with Worshipalooza was to gather the various worship groups from the different congregations and to do something musically in a larger forum,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Scott Smith, battalion chaplain, 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 3IBCT. Smith, a native of St. Louis, Mo., is immersed in his first year of active duty service as 3-7 FA’s chaplain. He played keyboard, guitar and sang at the concert.

Performers gather for a final curtain call at Worshipalooza outdoor music concert at FOB Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq.
Performers gather for a final curtain call at Worshipalooza, an outdoor music concert for Soldiers, Airmen and civilians at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq, July 13.

“For me, music is therapeutic and a gift to be shared,” said Smith. “It really is a language of its own that transcends all differences and allows people to gather for the simple goodness of worship and fellowship,” he continued. “This event was an opportunity for all of us to get together, do something fun and listen to the unique timbre of different types of music.”

The two-hour concert featured worship songs performed by the Gospel Service Choir, the Ohana Chapel Praise Team and Command Sgt. Maj. Keith Castaneda, plans sergeant major, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3IBCT.

Command Sgt. Maj. Keith Castaneda, plans sergeant major, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3BCT, 25th ID, adds his distinctive Island sound to Worshipalooza
Command Sgt. Maj. Keith Castaneda, plans sergeant major, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, adds his distinctive Island sound to Worshipalooza, an outdoor music concert for Soldiers, Airmen and civilians at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq, July 13.

“The vision of Worshipalooza was not for it to be a worship service necessarily. We wanted it to be an event that would attract people here on the FOB that might enjoy a different style of music,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Scott Sterling, brigade chaplain, 3IBCT. Sterling performed with the Ohana Chapel Praise Team.

“But if the music could transport people away; if it could get people thinking about something other than being on another mission; and if it could do it in a way that they were considering some eternal questions – thinking about God and being with others on the same journey – then the concert was a huge success,” said the Los Angeles, Calif., native.

“Afterward, I actually did have a Soldier tell me, ‘I forgot where I was for a little while,'” commented Sterling. “Really, that’s exactly what we wanted.”

By Spc. Mike Alberts

Military Friends of NewsBlaze originated these stories, sending them directly to us from Iraq, some from Afghanistan and some in the USA.