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Wing Chaplain provides spiritual help on the fly

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Marines and sailors have fought alongside each other for more than 230 years, with Navy corpsmen, doctors and nurses continuously keeping Marines fit for battle. However, one area that is sometimes overlooked is the spiritual readiness of Marines.

To answer this call, Navy Cmdr. Francis Foley, the command chaplain for 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), visited the Marines and sailors aboard Combat Outpost Now Zad, Helmand province, Afghanistan, May 27.

“It is such a great feeling when the chaplain comes out here to visit us,” said 1st Lt. Rick Chapman, the executive officer for Police Advisory Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.
A native of Palm Harbor, Fla., Chapman said the visits not only increase morale, but also allow service members to seek spiritual guidance.

“The Chaplain Corps provides Marines the opportunity to look into the spiritual side of life,” he said. “When the chaplain visits and the Marines attend the services, it gives them a taste of home and allows them to forget about the worries they have around here.”

Chapman said Marines go to the services to partake in religious activities to be around others who share similar beliefs with a leader of their faith.

Not only do Marines attend services, but they express to the chaplain their anxieties and day-to-day frustrations, explained Chapman.

“Father Foley’s visit gives the Marines here the ability to vent to someone else,” Chapman said. “It’s very helpful for them to talk to an outsider about certain subjects.”

Foley is one of four Catholic chaplains in Regional Command Southwest. With so few in the area, Foley said he tries to get out to various outposts to speak with Marines and let them know their sacrifices are appreciated and that their hard work does not go unnoticed.

“I always thank the troops for what they do,” said Foley, of Philadelphia. “To hear that from a stranger means a lot to these guys.”

Many Marines at remote outposts, such as Now Zad, typically do not get visited by a chaplain often. Foley said he tries to get out as much as he can to help raise their spirits.

“Bringing the care packages is a really big deal to these guys,” Chapman said. “Little things like peanut butter, snacks and socks means so much to them. It gives them insight from home and what they’re fighting for.”

Foley added the visits also give him first-hand perspective into how the Marines and sailors live and give him a great appreciation for the amenities he has at Camp Leatherneck. Marines in remote outposts sometimes go days without electricity, rarely receive hot meals and sleep on cots nightly.

Foley said he has visited approximately 18 forward operating bases and combat outposts since his arrival to RC-Southwest and plans to visit many more Marines and sailors while he is out here.

“I try to get out as much as I can and see the Marines out there,” he said. “If I can get them to smile and laugh, I’ve done my job and made it easier for the next chaplain who comes to visit them.”

Article by Cpl. Isaac Lamberth, 3rd Marine Air Wing