Monthly Archives: May 2015

Air Assault. So, thats happening.

There was this moment. I was at the knot of the “Tough One” rope and I realized I didn’t think I was going to be able to get my leg up on the bottom beam to mount the obstacle. I had a good lock on the rope, I was high enough but my arms felt burnt and I was afraid.

Afraid I didn’t have the strength to hoist myself to the final beam.

Afraid of failing.

Afraid of having to go back to my Battalion in the shame of having the rope beat me again without the excuse of torrential rain.

Afraid of my pride.

I prayed. Reached inside and yelled, released the lock on the rope and swung my left leg up. I didn’t make it. My foot slipped and I frantically tried to relock my feet on the rope. I managed to do it and in the desperation of a man unwilling to lose his dignity, I threw my leg up, pulled with my arms and suddenly found myself on the obstacle. I had done it. There were other obstacles, other pain (some overwhelming) yet to come that day, but the one thing keeping my out of Air Assault School was over and I beat it. I felt the rush of victory and the anxiety of everything else that needed to be done that day.

Day 0

Air Assault School starts in the wee hours of the morning, long before dawn with a great deal of standing in formation, kneeling in the rocks (everything there is limestone gravel), a 2-mile run, PRT (a series of calisthenics that includes a half-dozen types of the push-up – also demonstrated the maxim that any movement done long enough eventually hurts (fire running through your body hurts) – until thoroughly smoked) and then, and only then, do you actually get to climb the rope on to the Tough One.

tough one

I completed all the obstacles and the day moved on to sitting in a classroom simultaneously trying to stay awake and avoid doing the wrong thing so as not to do more push-ups.

By the way, here is a sweet video of the O Course done by the 101 Sustainment BDE.

Day 1

Again, the wee hours of the morning. Ok, really, when your alarm goes off at 0200, its actually the middle of the night. At 0330, we had formation and by 0400, we were off on a timed 6 mile ruck march that had to be passed in order to stay in the course. I passed.

#21 out of over 160 so not bad considering most everyone there is about half my age…

After that, we had an equipment layout and inspection. I had a moment of panic thinking I had forgotten my id tags – I had, but I also had packed a spare set in my ruck so I was good – and passed that.

After the layout our class, which had started out as over 230 the morning of Day 0 was now down to less than 160. After Day 1, we were down to less than 150. I think we are sitting at about 130 now. Fairly normal for Air Assault School.

Classwork.

People had told me that there was a lot of classroom training in AASLT School. They are correct. Only, it’s not like any training I’ve ever had before. As a Direct Commission officer, I never went to Basic Training so I really don’t know what that was like. Lecture is simply an Instructor barking facts he has memorized directly from the Field Manual and my furiously writing them down. There really isn’t room for any kind of creative thinking. Or thinking at all. This is Army training at its finest. When the Air Assault Sergeant says, “Study Air Assault” (we are called by our roster number and Air Assault – I am “roster number 620”) what he means is memorize. Somehow, I don’t think anyone really cares about pedagogical methods and my own learning style.

Day 2

More intense PT. I expected this. I am suddenly remembering that I’m getting older. My recovery time is nothing like it used to be. I get home after a day and just want to immerse myself in a hot tub and not get out of it. At all. Ever.

Then, it’s more classroom training and some field training.

So far, we’ve learned about the various rotary wing aircraft in the Army inventory – I need to memorize things like allowable cargo loads and maximum speed/cruising speed of each etc. Air Assault Combat Operations, Aeromedical Evacuation Operations and a bunch of other things that frankly, I don’t remember at this moment. I have so much memorizing to do this weekend…

Oh and “Pathfinder Hand and Arm Signals” which I’m pretty convinced is Army Tai Che.

Day 3 is Monday and at 0600, I’ll have a written test on all this as well as a demonstration about the hand and arm signals. So much work this weekend. At least I have the weekend.

I’m glad I made it but it’ll be even better when June 10 comes along…

Leave a comment

Filed under Army, Chaplaincy

Chaplains Represent… what?

There is a remarkable disconnect between the symbols of authority I wear on the uniform and the actual authority I bear as a person. A chaplain has no authority. They have no command. They have no real power. They only have representative power.

This looks like invoking the commander’s name when I need something acted upon as a staff officer. This looks like owning the rank on my chest as though it actually meant something other than a pay grade.

This looks like good, old fashioned pride often enough.

And yet, when I come into a room, it is not uncommon for Soldiers to stop with foul language or they will ask for pardon, “sorry chaplain…” Sometimes, people will shift uncomfortably in their seats waiting for me to finish whatever business I have in their space and leave; hoping, it seems, that I don’t start talking to them.

Is this because I am somehow intimidating? Heavens no! I am average in every way. I am a middle to end of the pack runner. I am always pushing the deadlines on my staff work. It is a great struggle and burden to keep up with the younger, more fit, better educated officers I work with.

So what drives the discomfort?

Representation.

I read this passage from a “Minister’s Prayer Book” this morning and it resonated with me.

                “I was a pastor ministering at a hospital. A patient said to me, “if you were a ditchdigger, you’d have a more useful calling than you do now.” That was a long time ago, but I have not forgotten it. I thought so myself many a time as I watched the nurses performing their tasks which are so needed and desired by the sick, and surgeons and doctors performing the most wonderful operations – while I stood there making miserable attempts at pastoral conversation. If I only were a ditchdigger! But a pastor? An impossible figure! Impossible before God, the world, and even myself. For there is a tremendous gap between what is required of a pastor in his (her) ministry and his (her) authority and power. Does he (she) have any power at all?…”*

I have oft felt that angst. I have oft flited about the “battlefield” on a mission or tasking with nothing more to do than visit with my Soldiers and just “be there.” Often, I have dealt with my angst by finding busy work to engage in. Becoming an expert in suicide intervention, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Leadership, morale work, budget analysis, event planning, and whatever else I could do to make myself useful to command.

IMG_20150515_084341

Really, I’m often just finding work to fill my day. To fill the void in my heart that seems so unfulfilled and worries that I’m of no actual use to the world I work in I create usefulness. I can own that it often came from pride.

It is noted, on the other hand, that I was raised with the maxim, “find a need and fill it.” This, combined with the embedded message of, “always look busy,” created in me a need to always have projects going. At its best, those projects were in the first vein but often, they could be easily identified as meeting the latter need.

Projects are good. Fulfilling needs and meeting goals are always healthy endeavors. For me, I’ve found that ignoring my spirit for the sake of keeping busy is injurious to my soul. They are an effort to be needed, to create some authority, please someone rather than the Someone, and by attempting to be indispensable, create power. That is inherently not good and not healthy.

It has been a challenge, growing into my ministry identity.

In a sense, I have suffered into it. 15 years into my ministry I am finally recognizing that what people need from their pastor is not programs or skill sets or leadership – they need authenticity. They need someone who knows their lane and knows their God and can represent that to them.

I love this from my morning reading:

                “The pastor’s authority is based solely upon the fact that Jesus Christ ministers to him (her) through the forgiveness of sins. What do I have to do in my ministry? I have to preach, and we say, “preaching is God’s Word.” And I know how those sermons of mine were produced. Often, it is true, with prayer and fear and trembling; but also by the dint of coffee and tobacco, sometimes in a burst of effort, very sketchily and superficially, because I have seemingly more important things to do. Strictly speaking, an impossible thing – unless Jesus Christ himself is not ashamed to accept this preaching.”* – Herman Dietzfelbinger

I know how my ministry has been produced. Through suffering both external and internal. Through the battles of the soul. Through disciplining my body and my mind, failing miserably in the intent, getting up and doing it again.

I think, and hope, that this is the sort of pastor people want and need. One who suffers as they do and yet, still embraces hope; even when it’s so hard to see. It is not about the work I do, the expertise I develop, the intellect I wield (thank God), it is about who I seek to represent. Can my people see Jesus through my stuff or does my business get in the way? Can they experience Christ in my presence, words, and actions or do they experience just another staff officer doing their jobs?

Pastoral ministry is, after all, all about who I represent.

 

* I chose intentionally to make the passage egalitarian.

1 Comment

Filed under Army, Chaplaincy, Theology