FORT KNOX, Ky. – It came as a surprise when someone told her chaplains are the unicorns of the Army.
After sitting and thinking it over, however, Chaplain Candidate 1st Lt. Florence Moss says she came to agree with the peculiar statement.
“For one, they’re not that many of us. We have a shortage,” Moss said, and as one of the only female chaplain candidates here supporting Cadet Summer Training (CST), the scarcity of Army chaplains emboldens her to meet the spiritual needs of the Army’s workforce.
“We are courageous enough to say, ‘I see my fellow Soldier hurting or in need. Send me. I’ll go,’” she expressed.
Cadets receive prayer after a Protestant worship service at O’Neill Chapel June 25 at Fort Knox, Ky. Photo by Sade’ Wilson
Before she decided to switch gears and pursue chaplaincy, Moss served as a paralegal in the Army for 12 years. She says she wanted to be a chaplain after witnessing day in and day out the legal – and sometimes, costly – trouble some Soldiers found themselves in.
“I saw that a lot of Soldiers were coming up short just by a hair and I thought to myself, ‘Who is not having the courage to speak truth and love to these troops?’” she recalled. Now, she says she gets “to just love on people wherever they’re at.”
Moss is one of 20 chaplain candidates that have served or are serving at Fort Knox this summer to support Cadets and the CST mission.
The candidates aren’t fully accessioned chaplains. According to the U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain Candidate Guidebook, the chaplain candidate program is the Chief of Chaplains of the United States Army’s “premier program to recruit and train prospective chaplains to serve the men and women of the United States Army.”
Chaplain Phillips sits down to speak with Cadet Casey about the Chaplain Corps during Branch Orientation at Fort Knox, Ky. June 23. Photo by Sade’ Wilson
“We don’t have a staff of 30 or 40 chaplains to cover the 10,000 Cadets who come here in the summer, so we use chaplain candidates. It’s an interesting dynamic; we have trainees taking care of trainees,” Cadet Command Chaplain Lt. Col. Brian Crane said.
For chaplain candidates, CST is essentially a hands-on practicum that serves to provide firsthand training to better prepare them for chaplaincy. They’re trained and evaluated on the job by Army Reserve chaplains and are assigned to a specific regiment of Cadets in either Basic or Advanced Camp.
Each chaplain candidate is accountable for an estimated 300 Cadets.
“They go on the road marches with them. They go onto the training ranges with them. They sit in the classrooms with them. They’re not there for every single thing, but they’re there for the bulk of it,” Chaplain Crane said.
He added that CST’s realistic environment – an environment where life doesn’t stop during training – better prepares the candidates not only for their very first day as chaplains, but also for the demanding responsibility of caring for the spiritual well-being of Soldiers and their Families as well.
That’s further practiced by interacting with and serving cadre members alongside serving the Cadets, Chaplain Candidate 1st Lt. Aaron Arnold says.
Although taxing, being in the thick of training with the Cadets is an invaluable experience for the candidates, he added.
“I believe that my call is to be shoulder to Soldier, just right next to them,” Arnold shared. “As I’m growing mentally and spiritually, I’m seeing the Cadets do the same. That type of experience – you can’t manufacture that.”
Chaplain Candidate 1st Lt. Miguel Jimenez says the experience has given him and his peers in the candidacy program the opportunity to experience what it’s like being a chaplain in a deployment setting.
“Hours aren’t set in stone. You’re dealing with real-life issues. There’s no way of making up this training,” he shared.
Jimenez says that sometimes, a particular training exercise can “strike a chord” with a Cadet, causing them to want to give up. Like a chaplain helping Soldiers, he adds that a chaplain candidate is present to help Cadets press on when they don’t think they can.
“You’re there to pick that spirit back up and put them back in the fight,” Jimenez said.
Among the challenges and difficulties the Cadets face in the field environment and the entirety of CST, the chaplain candidates find themselves having to create calm out of chaos, which is, ultimately, the duty of an Army chaplain.
Cadet Summer Training will bring 8,200 Cadets through Basic and Advanced Camp this summer on Fort Knox. These camps are designed to help challenge, grow and improve various skills and leadership qualities within the Cadets. If you think you have what it takes to be a Cadet or if you are interested in a job after college, click the following link: https://my.goarmy.com/info/rotc1/index.jsp?iom=IP08-AUTO-R1NA-BR-XXX-XX-XXX-MO-XX-X-BRCMAC:IP08