The brigade’s Unit Ministry Team (UMT) leaders, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Hershel Don Yancey and Staff Sgt. Ron Brooks, work to forge a tremendous partnership and lead the subordinate chaplains and chaplain assistants in a wide range of programs designed to address key soldier and family needs. This is especially challenging since the brigade’s soldiers are deployed to over 20 foreign countries and six U.S. states.
At Fort Gordon, Ga., the three battalions are served by Chaplain (Capt.) Kenneth Hancock and chaplain assistant, Sgt. Jerry Peebles (201st Battalion UMT); and Chaplain (Capt.) Dennis Hysom and his assistant, Spc. Marcus Anderson (202nd Battalion UMT). The 204th Battalion at Fort Bliss, Texas is served by Chaplain (Capt.) John Molina and Spc. Ed Willis.
Molina served the unit when it was in Orlando, Fla., and moved with it last summer to Fort Bliss, Texas. Willis came to the 204th from another assignment at Fort Bliss. Both soldiers are creative and people-oriented, and their ministry reflects that.
The "pastors in uniform" are augmented by chaplain assistants whose jobs range from keeping the chaplain alive in combat to coordinating all types of religious support. Yancey said, "The chaplain assistant is an extension of our UMT in the unit to help keep us up on what’s going on with soldiers and how we can take care of them."
Hancock said that Peebles complements his efforts by relating to soldiers in ways he can’t. "He can translate the needs within the battalion where rank, position or age difference may cause a soldier to feel uncomfortable speaking with a chaplain. He understands soldiers and can work for them."
The team experiences positive feedback when walking into a room. "It’s been an enriching experience," Hancock said of serving in the chaplaincy. "The chaplaincy is a missionary field."
Hysom served as an enlisted soldier previously and was called to the ministry in college. He returned to active duty in August 1997 as a chaplain. Hysom’s assistant Anderson says he feels comfortable with his Military Occupational Specialty. "I always have enjoyed helping people," Anderson said.
"He enjoys speaking to people and getting to know them, ...and everyone in the 202nd Battalion knows him! He’s a good ‘people person’ with good instincts and natural abilities," said Hysom.
Each Tuesday, when the 202nd soldiers perform motor pool vehicle maintenance, Hysom provides a brief motivational talk. When the 513th soldiers deployed to the Middle East, Yancey prayed with each group just prior to its leaving from Fort Gordon, Ga. As he spoke to soldiers and their families at Bush Field, Yancey gave spiritual support to those leaving and those left behind.
The chaplains in the 202nd and 204th make frequent visits to their companies, listening to their soldiers concerns, sharing their joys, and strengthening the ties with units separated by such a large distance. As Hysom put it, "When you are in Panama, Haiti or any other deployed location, you can feel pretty alone. The chaplain’s presence lets soldiers know that someone really cares."
Molina visits his 204th soldiers in Panama, and his retreats at El Valle are famous for improving communications skills. One way he accomplishes this is by using the Myers-Briggs Personality Index to improve how people work together in close teams.
Back at Fort Bliss, Molina is a key planner with the installation chaplain for a future " ‘Generation X’ Seekers Worship Service." This service will target young, non-traditionally religious soldiers and family members for a meaningful worship experience and relationship with God. Yancey said, "We are always looking for new ways and new programs to communicate timeless values and eternal truths to new generations of soldiers."
The chaplains provide traditional congregational worship services at Fort Gordon and Fort Bliss, as well as providing worship services in the field. Chaplains teach religious classes and provide literature for soldiers from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and many other backgrounds.
With the brigade’s robust deployment schedule, chaplains are also providing separation and reunion retreats to increase soldiers’ and family members’ skills at dealing with these tremendous pressures. "The response has been great," Molina said. "We will continue to seek ways to help people survive and overcome when the soldier deploys."
Every Tuesday, Hancock and Hysom lead the noontime brigade Bible study. For several weeks, the study has followed the workbook, "The Mind of Christ." The participants are enthusiastic about the impact on their spiritual lives and faith.
The ministry program of the 513th is comprehensive and creative. It involves single soldiers, married soldiers, family members, civilians, and leaders of all types. Through retreats, classes, Bible studies, worship services, personal visits, and visits to deployed soldiers, it increases living and soldiering skills.
Yancey said, "The old Chaplain Corps saying is still true ... ‘we go to soldiers for God and to God for soldiers’. Programs of all types are our means of doing just that! If the soldier and family member response is any indication, it is working and working very well!"
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Hershel Don Yancey is the 513th MI Brigade chaplain at Fort Gordon, Ga.