USS BATAAN, East Coast --
The U.S. Marines and Navy Sailors of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) have trained hard for their upcoming deployment. But being ready to deploy means more than just physical training and putting in long hours on the job.
“In the midst of all your physical and technical training, don’t forget that you are also a spiritual being and you need to make sure you are spiritually fit to deploy too,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kurt Michaelis, 22nd MEU chaplain and native of Panama City, Fla.
The religious ministry team (RMT) of the 22nd MEU and Bataan ARG is composed of seven chaplains and eight religious program specialists that work together to support the Marines and Sailors and to prepare every person involved in the deployment, including family and friends, spiritually.
“The Marine Corps will make sure the Marine is ready for deployment,” said Michaelis. “It is up to (the Marine) to make sure their family is ready.”
The religious program specialists run several programs and classes like a pre-deployment marriage class, Holy Joe’s Café, United Though Reading and community relation projects at ports, said Religious Program Specialist First Class Trent Clark, 22nd MEU religious program specialist and native of Ponca City, Okla.
United Through Reading gives service members the opportunity to videotape themselves reading a book for someone back home. They can then send the CD home and the person at home can read along with them.
Holy Joe’s Café gives service members the opportunity to sit down with the RMT in a relaxed environment, drink coffee and talk about religion or anything on their minds.
The RMT organizes community relation projects such as volunteering at orphanages or helping the community where the ship ports, said Clark.
One of the ways chaplains support service members is to walk around and talk with them, said Michealis.
Chaplains also provide and facilitate religious ministry, care for the service members and advise their commanders.
Anyone who wants to talk to a chaplain or religious program specialist just needs to walk up to them, Michaelis said.
The MEU recently completed the Composite Training Unit Exercise in preparation for its scheduled 2014 deployment to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility with the Bataan ARG as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations.