Friday, January 27, 2012

What I do

I work for some pretty good people.

As a chaplain, I have access to the CO (Commanding Officer), XO (Executive Officer) and SgtMaj (Sergeant Major) of my command. One of the core functions of Naval Chaplaincy is to advise the command, so I’m pretty much unfettered.

Within the regiment that I work for on most days, I get to work with a stellar command team. The Sgt Major is a great guy who reminds me of the father of my friend and colleague Steven Abraham. I like Steve’s dad; it’s not a bad thing. I have nothing but nice things to say about the XO of the regiment. I generally end my day in his office recapping the day and telling jokes.

But it’s the Marines that bring me to work every day. There are 18- and 19-year olds dealing with boy and girl issues. People getting married. Others getting divorced. They’re living life – and possibly getting deployed at any moment.

I was told when I got here that the average Marine in Okinawa spends their time here either drinking, going to the gym, or making babies. It seems they also play a lot of “Call of Duty 3”. But during the day, they do some amazing things.

This week, I met some Marines in the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Company. These are the guys who defuse bombs and try to detect IEDs. Something like 10% of everything that is supposed to go boom instead goes dud. Doesn’t mean it won’t go boom later. These guys go through old bases and search for leftover bomb material.

For the most part, they are adrenaline junkies - but they are also people. People who clear landmines from current and past war zones including but not limited to Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Japan. One of them said to me, “It takes only an hour to fill a field with landmines, but it takes days to clear the same field.”

I also met with some guys in Utilities Company who lost one of their own in Afghanistan a few weeks ago. The guy who used to live down the hall in their barracks had an accident while working with wires. It could have happened here, but it happened there. And now they have to go back to work: keep laying wires, keep working on their machines, keep drilling.

There are a couple of bad eggs here and there; but even my Marine in the Brig (Navy/Marine Corps term meaning “prison”) is a nice guy with a lot to share.

Quick side story before I end: I went to visit him in the brig last night on Camp Hansen. I didn’t actually know where I was going, but I saw a building with crossbars and super high security. I got up to the watchdesk and I asked about the prisoner who I was hoping to meet. The Lance Corporal standing guard looked at me, held his military bearing for about 30 seconds, and then just started laughing. Turns out it was just a super-secure building where all the Marines feel like they are imprisoned; he agreed that the prison-esque crossbars do make the place a little brig-like. After sharing the humor with his watch officer, they gave me really good directions to the brig. End side story.

So it’s been another interesting up and down week. It’s been a little emotionally and spiritually taxing, but Shabbat is here. A little rest couldn’t hurt.

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