Friday, March 30, 2012

A Good Marine Corps Day

So last week’s post was a little bit of a downer.  Sorry.  Some weeks are like that.

This week was awesome on the chaplain front.  While I still have no official office or work location, I get to work with a lot of different people on a few different bases.  Covering a huge swath of the 3rd Marine Logistics Group can be incredibly overwhelming, and that’s where I was writing from last week.  This week, on the other hand, was pretty great.

I didn’t save a single soul from eternal damnation, but I saved one Marine from making a truly terrible decision that could have had dire effects on his future career, his physical and medical health, and his family.  As my conversations are to the same level of confidentiality that one should expect from a Catholic priest, I cannot discuss exactly what I did and what we talked about: that said, he came up to me!  He didn’t have to, but he told me his whole story, his struggles, his problems: and he took my guidance!  It was awesome.

The non-military rabbis and chaplains reading this are probably going nuts now.  We’re taught in seminary to stay away from “solutions based counseling”.  The Navy and Marine Corps have a very different philosophy:

SgtMaj:  Fix my Marine, sir.
Chaplain:  Does your Marine want to be fixed?
SgtMaj:  Fix my Marine, sir.
Chaplain:  It takes time, and counseling, and dedication on all sides.
SgtMaj:  Fix my Marine, chaps.
Chaplain:  You seem to really want your Marine “fixed”?  Fixed is an interesting word, why do you think of him as broken?   What would fixed look like?
SgtMaj: Fix my Marine now, or I’ll fix him.
Chaplain:  Roger that, SgtMaj.

The Marine Corps expects results.  The command deck wants a chaplain on board who can help out immediately and get Marines back to work.  No command support = no ability to provide care.

If Marines don’t think you can fix their problems or provide aid, they don’t go to you unless they are forced to.  If you help one person and he/she feels that they had a positive experience – they tell their friends.  I got my ear into the rumor mill this week, and they’re saying pretty good things about me in the E-2 – E-4 group.  If they have a problem, they want to know how I can help them fix it.  The first example is the one above.  The second example, I’m more proud of.

A few days ago, a Marine walked into my office to ask me a lot of questions.  There were marriage questions and questions about transitions.  Near the end of our conversation, he asked me for guidance about premarital sex.  That never would have happened in the congregational world.  I loved the majority of my rabbis, but it is never an idea I would have brought to their attention.  This guy was not Jewish, not religious, and not a virgin. But he WAS prepping for his marriage and feeling that I was a safe guy to talk to about it!  He asked me as a religious leader, as a Jewish person, and as a man – what I thought about premarital sex. 

And that was a good day.

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