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Feature Stories

NEWS | June 10, 2020

Spartan Chaplains Maintain Morale and Faith in spite of COVID-19

By Story by Sgt. Andrew Valenza Task Force Spartan

The chaplains of Task Force Spartan are working overtime to maintain morale amid social distancing and other restrictions Soldiers face in a COVID-19 environment.

"COVID started when we got here, we've been dealing with it every day the past few months," said Lt. Col. Douglas Brock, the 42nd Infantry Division chaplain.

One of the first and largest impacts COVID had on our military installation was suspending church services.

"The biggest impact is that the chapel services were suspended, so we moved the chapel part of Sunday services to virtual," said Brock. "For example, my chapel has a Facebook page/group in which some of my chaplain team are posting Sunday messages, or daily messages and engaging with people."

The Facebook group Chaplain Brock runs is called “AJ Contemporary family.”

The Spartan chaplains believe the group makes it easier for Soldiers to fulfill their spiritual needs, even if they cannot physically attend services.

"I don't know how well that's impacting our Soldiers here on the camp, but we see that people are looking at it," said Brock. "They're liking it, you have visibility on how many people have looked, and how many people have liked and shared, and we've seen some action there, so it's doing its mission."

Brock's social media group isn't the only service in town. Others have followed suit.

"There are others; in fact, every chaplain program on post has a Facebook group," said Brock.

Capt. Matthew Granahan is the Task Force Hellhound, 3rd Ordnance Battalion (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) chaplain, also has an online group. While keeping up-to-date with his own social media group, Granahan is also working to provide support to Soldiers who may reside in quarantine or isolation.

"I will stand outside the wire, and Soldiers will come up to me on the other side. We gather together for a small service," said Granahan. "Sometimes, only one or two will show up, but I'll be there for whoever needs to hear the message."

Virtual services are only one method for tending to the faithful. Some small-scale services are also held outdoors to maintain some semblance of normalcy.

"One of the questions that I've experienced from my whole career, is when people see chaplains they ask, 'when's service?' Being able to answer that question reinforces that sense of normalcy, at least for National Guard Soldiers that are used to field services," said Brock.

According to Brock, the services appear to have a positive effect on those Soldiers who attend, but the real struggle concerns current events on the home front.

"In talking to my Soldiers and talking to my chaplains, I'm finding that the biggest impact on morale is what's going on at home," said Brock.

While Spartan Soldiers deal with COVID-19, their families at home deal with multiple issues, including quarantine and potential loss of jobs and the increasing civil unrest related to recent events that took place in the United States. Without being able to be there for their families, Soldiers are turning to their faith to cope.

"What's hurting morale is the general feeling of, as one Soldier said, my wife and children are going through so many crisis at home, and I'm not there to be a part of that," said Brock.

With all that going on in the world, Brock still sees this as a chance for Soldiers to grow and looks at the situation with optimism, which he tries to share in his message.

"We talk a lot now about finding joy in trials and hardships," said Brock. "It's about recognizing God is in control, he can be trusted, he is good, there is hope and justice. We're recognizing that trials and hardship build us; it builds character and makes us stronger."

Brock and his three Chaplains from the 42nd are all Christians but have made sure to provide opportunities to Soldiers of other faiths to practice in their ways.

"Since COVID, services have largely been virtual. Usually, Ramadan would include celebrating in gathering, and even surrounding nations cut that off. Like the Christians, they are not able to gather in large numbers, but we made provisions for that and provisions for Passover," said Brock.

He ended with a last message of hope to all the Soldiers of Task Force Spartan.

"Rejoice in trial!" He said, "Rejoice in trial because we recognize that hardship in trial is how we grow. Think of a gem, think of basic training, whatever it is you think of, it's in the hardship that you grow. I encourage you to reconnect with your faith and look for hope outside of your circumstances. Connect with someone, and if you need chaplain help, please reach out to us. So Amen, and Rainbow, never forget."