TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - A squad patrols through the desert, but this squad is unlike any other. As they patrol, everything is calm, until gun shots ring out. Members of the squad return suppressive fire and a religious program specialist quickly gets his chaplain to safety.
The Combat Center hosted Combat Religious Ministry Team Training, Jan. 20, 2015. The exercise was held to condition Religious Ministry Teams for combat situations and is the first of its kind.
“When the units go through training in ITX, they don’t really provide individual training for the chaplains and RPs,” said Navy Capt. Steven Moses, Combat Center Chaplain, native of Louisiana. “So we’re putting them in a situation where they understand how to be on a patrol and how to respond to emergencies as a team.”
RMTs are composed of a chaplain and an RP. They are a unique commodity in the Marine Corps because while the RP is a trained combatant, the chaplain isn’t. The RP’s sole responsibility is to provide security for the chaplain.
“We’re not combatants as chaplains, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help,” said Lt. Cmdr. Arthur Wiggins, Jr., 4th Marine Regiment Chaplain, native of Durham, N.C. “Our RP is our body guard, they’re going to try to protect us, so the sooner we find cover and help them do their job, then we’re also helping the situation.”
The training event was held on Range 215 and went through a variety of scenarios. The RMTs were familiarized with how to respond to different situations. They reviewed what to do when they go out with the operating forces, such as how to conduct field worship services and perform first aid. For this exercise there were eight RMTs, 30 Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School students, and 35 Tactical Training Exercise Control Group role players.
“I believe the Marines who are taking them out on patrols are learning a lot about what it means to be a chaplain, because it’s kind of a unique thing,” Moses said. “When everyone thinks of the chaplain, I think they think that the chaplain comes and provides services, but the chaplain also has to be out there with Marines.”
The hope is to conduct this training at least five times a year, during every ITX, and have a different set of RMTs cycle through each time.
“This is training that every chaplain needs,” Wiggins said. “This is the training that’s going to be helpful, not only for the chaplain and RP but also for the Marines, to help keep them spiritually fit and keep them alive.”