JUNE 29, 2011 - Army Chaplaincy

 
 

Visitors
Christine Burke
John Enright
Courtney Kleinebreil - CAAFA 

Program
Army Chaplaincy - Myron E. Nysether
Retired Army Chaplain and Pastor of Our Savior's Lutheran Church

Military services usually refer to their officers first by rank then name.  One would expect our speaker to be referred to as Lt. Col. Myron Nysether.  But this is not so. Unique to the Army’s Chaplaincy Corps, the protocol is to state that this person is a Chaplain first, then the rank is indicated, like this …
 
Chaplain Myron Nysether (Lt. Col.)
 
Myron filled us in on a number of other interesting facts about the Army Chaplaincy. It is the second oldest Corps in the Army having been established during the Revolutionary War before we had won independence from England. Under George Washington’s command, the Continental Army’s first Corps was the Infantry; and next came the Chaplaincy Corps. From its early inception the Army’s tradition and commitment that no soldier would go to battle without there being a chaplain on the battlefield with him was set.
 
Five of the world’s major religions are represented in the Army Chaplaincy – Buddhism, Catholic, Islam, Jewish and Protestant. Only one chaplain from one of the religions is assigned to an Army battalion consisting of about 900 soldiers and their families.  The challenge of having this broad spread in representation is evident in the battlefield as well as in the everyday peacetime military environment. 
 
In the battlefield, it is inevitable that some dying soldier’s religious needs will have to be administered by a Chaplain of another religion.  The Army’s solution - training.  Every chaplain is taught to deal with a dying soldier in the soldier’s own faith. For example – a Jewish Chaplain may be called upon to hear a Catholic’s confession and pronounce absolution.
 
In peacetime, the solution is simpler. A chaplain will regularly ask a chaplain of a different religion from a different battalion to come to his battalion and perform religious services.
 
Promotions change the role a chaplain plays. At the junior officer level the chaplain is assigned to a battalion and has direct contact with all of the men and women in his unit.  At the Lt. Colonel level a Chaplain might be assigned to a Division and now has supervisory responsibility over 26 chaplains with a total congregation of 20,000. Civilian life offers nothing in comparison. Myron enjoyed being at the battalion level where he was closer to his congregation – a more rewarding job.