Saturday, March 23, 2013

NCSC Week 6--The Kinder Gentler RMTEX

For those of you who don't know. RMTEX is the Religious Ministry Team Exercise. It is designed to simulate life in the field in case the chaplain is stationed with the Marines. Normally, RMTEX is designed for chaplains and RP's and consists of 40-50 people. But due to program changes, our RMTEX consisted of us 19 chaplains, Gunny, our class officer, and some corpsmen.


At 0500 we loaded up our gear into the vehicles and drove out to the camp site. We set up camp which took a couple hours and then headed to our first evolution. Team building! This would turn out to be a lot of fun, but our team wasn't too good. We completed one of the five exercises. Well sorta. We blew up one of the team members right at the end of the one we completed so I guess it means we failed all of them. Oh well, it was still fun!

After that we did combat field medic training. We were ushered into a building that looked like a town and saw a body leaking blood and filled with bullet holes and wounds. It was almost like a day in Lillian, AL on the fire department.

That night, we camped out, but it was interupted by a severe electrical storm. We evacuated the tents and went into one of the buildings and slept the night there. It was nice and warm, but the floor was hard, and the light stayed on. Not too much sleep happened that night.


Tuesday we woke up early, but since it had rained the previous night, we were told that a lot of the height evolutions would be dropped today. Much of the time at RMTEX we were up against the clock, since the Army was going to be using the course right after we finished.

The evolutions were challenging and I hurt my wrist trying to climb a rolling log that was nearly as tall as I was. After I successfully got over, I was hoping I was not going to have to do it again. But since we weren't doing some of the other evolutions we would do the same set again. So here we go, I had to do it again. This time my wrist hurt really bad. I took me three times at least to get over the log, but I made it. Short people should not do some of these evolutions....

One of the benefits of this kinder gentler RMTEX and our lack of RP's probably allowed some time to be built into the schedule. For a few hours, we took the vans back and were able to get showers and clean up a bit. That was wonderful!

My memory is a bit foggy about what else we did that day, but I think we had some briefs and some practicing of land navigation.


Here was the day I was dreading, but it turned out to be a blast. We began the day with Victory Tower. This involved a lot of things! See the picture below (It's not me). I'm scared of heights and rapelling down a 40FT complete vertical wall is not my idea of fun. However, I was not going to give Gunny the satisfaction of seeing me scared of heights. I leaned back (trusted the equipment) and gave a big jump. It was so much fun!

We did more of the parts of the tower and went on to the next thing...PT!

Gunny called this modified PT. I was thinking it wouldn't be too hard. I didn't realize it would be a modified Marine Combat Fitness test. This meant I would have to do some ammo can lifts, low crawl, body drag, fireman's carry and some pushups. This was going to be challenging. I didn't think my body would be able to lift many of the guys in class. Thankfully I ended up lifting a guy that was 170 lbs. What's more amazing, is that as a firefighter, I had never done the fireman's carry....Now I have.

The next evolution would be interesting. This was the gas chamber. For those of you who are not familiar with CS gas. Read up on it. It involves tablets and fans. Most marines go in with a concentration of 30 tablets. Most chaplain classes have about 9 tablets. Our class had 3. We chalked up the lack of tablets to sequestration.

I had this plan to go into the gas chamber and conquer it without any adverse side affects. After going through the simulation, I figured I could take my mask off, say my number and clear my mask all in one breath. I get in the chamber. Did that and was thankful! I had made it. No problems...until Gunny said. Now take off your mask. I'm thinking to myself that this is completeling insane. He never mentioned this in the simulation! After taking the mask off we were to recite the Sailor's Creed. That was all she wrote...I was coughing and my eyes were burning like crazy. We exited the chamber and I was so glad to be done with that. My worst fears were done for RMTEX. I had conqured more than I had ever thought possible. It was great!

After this, we did some hiking and more land navigation practice. We also had some incidents that led to some other trying moments in the class, but each class should keep things within the team and they don't need to be shared among others.


Land Navigation day and camp tear down! We were going to do some land navigation and see Ft. Jackson! It promised to be great. Our team had come together really well and we had found the points. Some stupid mistakes through us off, but we were excited. After eating our lovely MRE for breakfast, we were told no MRE for the rest of the day. Instead we'd have one MRE for our four people to share. Ugh.

I also decided to paint my face with camo paint. Gunny said I looked like Lou Ferrigno. I didn't recognize the name. But many people said the same thing.

We started off heading off in the right direction and quickly found our first point. The second point, we plotted in the middle of the swamp. We found it...well we found where we thought it should be, but it wasn't there. We spent two hours trying to find the point. We couldn't find it. By the grace of God we did manage to find three of our other points. By the end of the daytime land navigation my feet had it! I put some moleskin on my toe to keep from rubbing against my NWU boots. We had covered a ton of ground (Probably 10K or so during the daytime navigation). I was also starving.

I had been doing a carb free diet for 3 weeks, but at that point. We tore into our MRE. I had two bites of garlic mashed potatoes, some bites of stew and a sip of cappuccino.

Next we did some night time navigation. We hiked in full MOLLE pack to the course (Probably a half mile) This time we were told no lights at all were to be used after we plotted our points. So now, we had to memorize our Azmuth and distance. Our team was the last one out...This was not bodding well for the team. As we took off, we headed for our first point. We ended up finding...Starting Point 4...Another strike.

But we eventually found our first point...and then from there we sailed through the rest of them. We actually beat everyone back! Woo hoo! Go us! It was nice to be on top!


Friday we spent the day cleaning equipment and doing Admin stuff. So that was my week! It was physically challenging and I really learned alot about teamwork, and about myself. I also more importantly learned that God truly is in control. He had answered many prayer requests and revealed himself to me in many ways!

NCSC Week 5

I am making up for lost time. I forgot to blog Week 5. So here it is!

Monday and Tuesday were finishing up Phase I of Chaplains school. Since we had taken our exam the friday before, there really wasn't a whole lot to do. We had some lectures and our three departing chaplains (those only staying for Phase I) would do some short five minute briefs to the class. After Tuesday's class, we would then begin our week and a half of REMTEX.

Much of the rest of the week was prep work for being in the field. We had a brief on Marine Corps history given by our Gunny. He really didn't want to do four hours of Marine Corps history so he gave us the highlights and then opened the floor to questions from the class.

This was really one of the best things to happen. Gunny was happy to answer our questions and really shared a lot of his life in the Corps. He has been through a ton of things in his life, and his story is really inspirational and motivating. It has motivated me to push myself more than I ever thought I would. (I didn't know that at the time though)

Near the end of the week we went out to our future campsite and grabbed our MOLLE Pack and Assault Packs. These packs would contain everything we would need for the week. We also received our gas masks and reviewed how to put them on and use them properly.

After Friday's class we took our equipment back to the room, and packed. Monday at 5:00, we would be headed to the field.

Each chaplain was told, no phones, no communication equipment. If we needed to be contacted, the Gunny said we could have Red Cross messages sent to us.

Wow, the next week would be interesting.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

NCSC Week 4

Wow, it's hard to believe that I finished week four already and Phase I of Chaplain's school is now complete. The time has gone by pretty quickly, but I'm eager to be done with the training. I have learned quite a bit, and I want to put my knowledge into practice in my own way, with my own personality.

This last week we took a trip to NAS Mayport to experience the naval chaplaincy. You would think that is what I have been doing the last few weeks, but you'd be mistaken. A few years ago, the DOD decided in their infinite wisdom to move the Naval Chaplaincy School from Newport, RI to Ft. Jackson, SC. For this reason, there are not too many things "Navy" around here. It's odd to be wearing our NWU's (Naval Working Uniform/Digital Camo) and get stopped by people who say, "What branch of service are you from?" We would reply that we are with the Navy and they would smile, and say, "THANK YOU. I feel like I'm the only Navy person around here.

Yet, suffice it to say, we don't see too many things Navy. Colors in the morning, include Reville, not the national anthem. There are bugles sounding all the time, I see Army uniforms here, there and everywhere. So the Navy takes a back seat here at Ft. Jackson. We have our little building and that's it.

So to give the chaplains a taste of Naval ministry, we went to Mayport. This was a fantastic trip. It was wonderful to interact with many chaplains in the Navy. They all loved their jobs, loved their sailors and really got along well with other chaplains. The chaplains were super friendly and informative and very relaxed. It put us at ease, and made a lot of us feel compelled to be a Navy chaplain again.

We first toured a guided missile destroyer, and then spent the night aboard a cruiser. The ship was nice and clean (The galley, food was terrible) and the bunk where I stayed wasn't too bad. We stayed in enlisted berthing so we had 3 bunks in one compartment. Imagine if you will, three coffins on top of one another. Then you'd get the idea of how you slept on ship.

The comfort wasn't bad, the NOISE was. I didn't sleep hardly at all. I kept waking up to every little sound. Oh well, it was a great experience!

We ended the week with a couple papers and our second test. I did much better and got a 91% on it. So praise the Lord.

This coming week, we begin RMTEX. It involves lots of of which is a gas chamber.

Friday, March 1, 2013

NCSC Week 3

Here I am sitting listening to music on my iPod and staring out at the rapidly flowing waters of Westen Lake. It's a bit on the chilly side as I write this during our self-care day. But the cool breeze keeps me from sleeping and let's me reflect a lot on the last week of class and events.

Monday was a depressing day for nearly half our class. We had our first knowledge test and nearly half the class failed the test. Passing in the navy is an 80% but my stellar score was 67%. Seminary wasn't that long ago and I did fairly well, but for some reason the class struggled.
These last few weeks have been a blessing, yet as a class we've struggled. People have struggled with situations and our teambuilding has needed a bit of work. I had been fairly isolated from many struggles until Monday. That morning, I had received the wrath of the gunny because I walked for about 10 seconds during PT after an unexpected incline.
Normally the words people say don't affect me, but it really got to me, because I felt I had let myself down. In addition, that day I heard Bethany had a bad day as well, being up half the night with sickness. So those things were weighing on me Monday. When I found out I had let myself down again with the test it was just another nail in the coffin emotionally.
Thankfully the Navy has remediation and myself and teammates buckled down that night and studied for our retake. But that day I resolved not to quit.There may be trials struggles and afflictions but those are just temporary in nature. (See verse at end)

Tuesday was uneventful other than studying for our test.

Wednesday, was where i would be put to the test again. 0500 was PT time and we had a running day. It was the same course as before and this time after the big hill i pushed through the pain and never quit even when it hurt. During the day I kept thinking about the test and slogged through another series of PowerPoints. These powerpoints are filled with ministry information and really are helpful but they do get tedious after a time.
Wednesday afternoon I felt good about the test and determined to ace it. Thankfully I did get 100% but since it was a retake the most I could get was an 80%. I didn't care about the grade I cared I had accomplished the goal.

Thursday was the time the we got to go to Parris Island. This is where we were able to observe the marines and experience a small taste of being a Marine. We got yelled at and we screamed back "yes ma'am" we got yelled at some more and marched from the van to he yellow footprints several times. It was disorienting and it's designed to help the recruit be disoriented and help strip the individuality away and begin the team building process.

It was amazing to see what Marines go through for our country. They are willing to lay down their lives for their countrymen. And they go through a lot of pain to have the honor of doing so.
The other blessing is the fact that Marine commanders acknowledge the need for chaplains in the military. Marine's love their chaplains tremendously. They are used to counsel regularly and I heard stories of recruits doing a complete 180 in direction and mind after speaking with the chaplain. The colonel we spoke with even said that he relies on his chaplain for advice and counsel routinely and trusts the chaplain completely. He encouraged us to GET OUT OF OUR OFFICE and see Sailors and Marines we serve. Ministry of presence is everything.

On the way back from our trip I heard the story of another one of our chaplains. He has gone through a whole lot already. His family has suffered through 2 PCS moves and his family has to go through another one and his wife and kids may have to do it alone.

Last night I was writing my second paper for our class and came across a passage of Scripture that I have been mediating on. It is found in II Corinithans 4:16-18 and states:

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
No matter the trials or afflictions, they are temporal. God will renew us daily and wants us to focus on the eternal not the temporal.
On to week 4! Our final week of Phase I.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

NCSC Week 2

It's hard to believe how fast time flies. This week was a great week at Chaplain School. For most of the week we had a guest lecture series on Ethics by Captain Rick Rubel. He was very thought provoking in many of our lectures and caused quite a bit of discussion amongst the class.

It was so enjoyable to be able to contemplate things that would never cross one's mind. When it comes to ethics, most people think the world is just black and white. Right is right and wrong is wrong.

But how do you decide between a good thing or a better thing? How do you decide between two equally horrible choices? Those are the types of questions that the great minds of 19 students at NCSC tried to answer. And to be completely honest, I don't think we came up with anything substantial.

The only conclusion I managed to come up with is: I hope God will speak audibly to me, when I have a tough choice to make.

Apart from class, there hasn't been a whole lot going on. The PT sessions are strenuous. Ammo can lifts, suicides, sprints, pushups, situps, pullups. All that normal good stuff. Thankfully I have survived.

On another note, the devotions the other chaplains have delivered have been fantastic. The sweet spirit that is present among all is a sight to behold.

I was sick earlier this week and I think it might be spreading through the class.

This upcoming week should be great! We have a trip to Paris Island to look forward to.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

NCSC Week 1

My head is cold. I will tell you why in a moment, but first let me let you all know that the first week of Chaplain School has been fantastic. The opportunities for ministry abound. As many people think that the military ministry is not a real ministry, or that there are no opportunities to be able to make a difference in lives of people, I want to be the first to say NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH.

The U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps is a small world. There are only 850 active duty chaplains that cover the entire U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy and let's not forget the 2 billets to the Merchant Marine.

There are opportunities to do the following as a chaplain: Preach according to your faith twice a week, lead a Bible study, perform weddings and offer marriage counseling, offer evening prayers, dedicate ships, dedicate babies, conduct at sea burial ceremonies, help those who are suffering and depressed and this is just a small taste of what a chaplain does every single day. It is exhilarating just to think about it!

I learned a few new things this week. First, I wonder how many people knew that when a ship is underway and there is a church service occurring the Christian banner (See Image Below) flies above the national ensign? What an amazing tradition that reflects the fact that God still has a place in our every day world!

Another thing I learned is that we have amazing instructors that care about their troops. I know that this may seem obvious, but I have learned that there are chaplains in the fleet that don't care. The instructors, particularly LCDR Moore, is fantastic and has given briefings that are practical, soul-stirring, hilarious and informative.

The next thing I learned is that this is not ODS! Thankfully, I have a room to myself, full kitchen, two TV's and maid service daily. I'm practically in the Air Force now ;)

Additionally, there are more things to tell about. The chaplains that are with me, though some are different (I think we have a bunch of baptists), all have a call to ministry. It is amazing to see how God has worked in so many individual lives. How He has led people through their own trials and struggles and has brought them to the place that they are in their military career. One of the cool things is that I met another chaplain who went to my high school. LTJG Chad Goddard went to PCS/PCA and is with me! Another blessing is that I was able to meet two other chaplains from that are also endorsed by Conservative Baptists of America. It is such a small world and God constantly reveals himself to me through these little blessings.

Now, the answer to why my head is cold. Gunnery Sergeant Foote wanted us to all have marine hair cuts on Tuesday when we went back to school. Well, I got a marine high and tight. Today it snowed. Lovely, my nice thick hair is no longer isolating my head. Gunnery Sergeant, seems to be a pretty nice individual. We had our first day of PT yesterday and he gave us two choices. Run six miles, or do the Gunny Obstacle Course. We chose the obstacle course. Today, my arms and neck are sore. :(

For those of you who are looking for information about chaplain school, here is the rundown of a schedule.

0730-0800-Daily Devotions with the other chaplains. These daily devotions are wonderful, you get to see how different faiths conduct some of their services. I observed the Eastern Orthodox service the other day and it was very interesting! Not my cup of tea though.

0800-1130-Lecture, "death by PowerPoint"


1300-1630-"death by PowerPoint"

On Monday's, Wednesdays and Friday we have PT lead by the Gunnery Sergeant at 0530.

Well that sums up this week! God bless, see ya next Friday!

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Reserves!

For the last several months I've been acclimating to the United States Navy Reserves. Since joining I have attached to NOSC (Naval Operational Support Center) Pensacola and am enjoying getting to know the people there. There is a great group of sailors there and the leadership truly cares about the sailors under them.

The first couple months of reserves, was just workshop success and power point presentation. I honestly think the Navy has stock in Microsoft. Power points seem to be a way of life. One of the drawbacks was that there wasn't too much for a chaplain to do in these seminars. Much of the material focused on enlisted sailors.

After a couple months of being attached to the reserves, the XO suggested that I flex drill and work with some of the area chapels. Fortunately, I know the staff chaplain at Corry Station and was able to help him out.

While Chaplain Alander was gone for two weeks, I was able to fill in for him and do the Sunday services. It was an amazing opportunity and the people at the chapel are so loving, kind and caring. They truly were receptive to the message and the Holy Spirit moved in the congregation.

Next week though, is another milestone. I head to Ft. Jackson, SC to complete all three phases of Chaplain's school. This is a bit of a nervous time period, I don't really know what to expect. I have heard horror stories, but I know the Lord will carry me through. One thing is certain, this blog should get updated a WHOLE lot more than it has been in the last several months.

We are actually all moving up there. It will be nice to have my family close by so that I can hang out with them all during liberty. Also since the apartment is only 5 mins away. I should be able to see them quite a bit.

May God bless all of you!
Chaplain Dewhurst, USNR