In recent years, counseling has moved up to a top priority of the chaplain corp. Army Chief of Staff, General George Casey Jr. says,
After seven years of continuous combat however, our Army is out-of-balance. The stress on Soldiers and Families has had an impact across the force. Yet our Values remain non-negotiable. Precisely for this reason, the Chaplain Corps’ mission of providing spiritual, moral, and ethical counseling is critically important (U. S. Chaplaincy Corp 2009, Sec 1:i).In an effort to keep “spiritual, moral, and ethical counseling” in a position of high importance, the Army Chaplaincy Strategic Plan 2009-2014 requires the strengthening of existing support programs and the creation of more of them; in addition to recruiting higher caliber chaplains and opening more opportunities for soldier and family counseling. Chaplains regularly find themselves counseling wounded warriors and their families, soldiers transitioning out of the Army, and career soldiers enduring multiple extended deployments. Suicide rates are higher among soldiers than the rest of the population, and chaplains are serving on the forward front in efforts to prevent future suicides as well as other physical, mental, and spiritual hardships of the suffering soldier.
Finally, to accomplish the first two primary areas of the Army chaplaincy—worship and counseling—the chaplain must put a greater effort into visitation. It is the ministry of presence that allows the chaplain to serve the soldier’s needs, psychically, morally, and spiritually. Hospital visits are just as important as meeting each solider on the battlefield as is time with the troops in garrison and training. Presently, the chaplain must go to the soldier, no matter where his or she is, because it is becoming increasingly unlikely that the soldier will come to the chaplain.
And through out all of the chaplain’s efforts, the reality of war must remain in the forefront of planning and training. Not only must Army chaplains help prepare soldiers and their families for wartime, they themselves must be ready. The Army Chaplaincy Strategic Plan 2009-2014 has come to realize that chaplains too must be ready to go anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice, at any time. Without a doubt, in the face of a changing world, the Army chaplaincy must be changing too.
U. S. Army, Chaplain Corp. 2009. The Army Chaplaincy Strategic Plan 2009-2014. http://www.chapnet.army.mil/ (Accessed February 28, 2009)
*This post was, in its entirety or in part, originally written in seminary in partial fulfillment of a M.Div. It may have been redacted or modified for this website.