CAMP ZAMA, Japan (July 30, 2021) – An event celebrating the 246th anniversary of the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps offered the chance to both reflect on the branch’s storied past and look toward its future, the U.S. Army Garrison Japan chaplain said.
“This event reminds us of who we are and where we’ve been, but most importantly, the legacy that we want to build going forward,” Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Florio Pierre said after the ceremony.
The USAG Japan Religious Support Office hosted the event July 29 in the Zama Chapel courtyard here. In attendance were members of the U.S. Army Japan and 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion chaplaincies, the 374th Airlift Wing chaplain from Yokota Air Base, and members of the 78th Signal Battalion’s unit ministry team, who watched virtually via the internet.
Before the start of the ceremony, attendees browsed static displays set up in the courtyard that provided information on the history of the Army Chaplain Corps and its diverse mission. Following the invocation, Col. Christopher L. Tomlinson, USAG Japan commander, was welcomed to provide remarks.
Tomlinson noted that when Gen. George Washington encouraged the formation of the Army Chaplain Corps in 1775, he made no requirements of education, endorsement or age. His only requirements were that chaplains be “men of ability … men of character who will influence the manner of the corps, both by precept and example,” Tomlinson said.
There are three relationships in which a chaplain’s role is critical, Tomlinson told the audience. The first is between the chaplain and his or her Soldiers.
“We have Soldiers of every faith, and Soldiers who claim no faith—so how can the chaplain be an influence on us all?” Tomlinson asked. “What Soldiers often need the most is someone to trust and to confide in. We highlight trust because that is the greatest value in any of our great units.”
Chaplains also have an important relationship with their commander, Tomlinson continued. As a commander, Tomlinson said he needs honesty and truth from his chaplain.
“The commander’s relationship with the chaplains is that of a trusted adviser,” Tomlinson said.
And finally, Tomlinson said, chaplains should have a close relationship with each other. It is critical that chaplains of different faiths and even from different branches of the military work together, because having those strong relationships helps maintain the spiritual fitness of a unit, Tomlinson said.
“When Soldiers and commanders see chaplains working together, the corps is influenced by your precept and example, and [that unit] only becomes that much more powerful,” Tomlinson said.
Echoing that philosophy, Air Force Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Andrew McIntosh, the 374th Airlift Wing chaplain, said celebrating the Army Chaplain Corps anniversary was important because it reinforces the role of chaplains within the U.S. military, and how essential they’ve been since the days of the Continental Army.
McIntosh, who is 24 years into his career as an Air Force chaplain, and whose father was also an Air Force chaplain, said it was a privilege getting invited to Camp Zama and being able to celebrate with the Army.
At this point in his career, McIntosh said he most enjoys mentoring young chaplains and airmen. This led him to invite Airman 1st Class Rebecca Cashin, a religious affairs airman who joined the Air Force just a little more than a year ago, to attend the event with him.
Like McIntosh, Cashin said it was a privilege to visit Camp Zama and attend the event.
“It’s really awesome to see that even though we’re in different branches [of the military], we have the same purpose,” Cashin said. “It’s really nice to do stuff together with the different branches and realize that we’re still on the same team.”
The celebration concluded with a cake-cutting ceremony, and food and refreshments. As everyone—Soldiers and airmen, those in the Chaplain Corps and those not—conversed together over a meal in the courtyard, Pierre said that seeing so many people come together for the event meant a lot to him.
“It tells me that we are one—we are doing the same thing,” Pierre said. “Regardless of the uniform, we are embracing a monumental task to strengthen the spiritual wellbeing of our nation.”