MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Marines are trained to be mentally tough and physically strong. A third attribute that can be overlooked, but is essential to the well-being of a Marine, is being spiritually sound. The chaplain corps has the distinct mission of providing spiritual and faith-based guidance to sailors and Marines.
The U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific chaplain corps held its first Professional Naval Chaplaincy Excellence Award ceremony Feb. 23, 2016, at Camp Pendleton. The ceremony recognized a chaplain and religious program specialist of I Marine Expeditionary Force who went above and beyond the call of duty to provide spiritual guidance and renewed faith to Marines and sailors serving around the globe.
Lt. Michael Kennedy, a chaplain with 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Dawaylon Farr, a religious program specialist with 1st Bn., 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Mar. Div., were this year’s recipients of the awards.
“From here on out we plan on doing this every single year,” said Capt. Mark Hendricks, force chaplain for U.S Marine Corps Forces, Pacific. “This ceremony recognizes those chaplains and religious program specialists who rise above and best represent excellence in chaplaincy.”
Spirituality is the cornerstone of the work that leads to mentally tough, physically strong Marines, which translates to mission accomplishment.
“Caring for people, caring for their spiritual needs – this is what is important to us,” said Hendricks. “We take the time to get to know the people in the units we’re assigned to. I feel, ultimately, this helps us to complete the overall mission.”
The chaplain corps makes this possible by offering a variety of services such as family and individual counseling, providing religious ceremonies, and helping with financial management.
“We take a lot of pride in the services we provide,” said Cmdr. James Johnson, Navy chaplain for I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group. “We offer religious services for 90 denominations and are available to any Marine or sailor who needs help. Whether it’s just needing someone to talk to or requiring serious counseling. We are always there for anyone who needs us.”
Being ready to help Marines and sailors whenever they require it is an aspect of being a chaplain or religious program specialist, but it also helps to ensure the success of the command and its mission.
“A chaplain or a [religious program specialist] has to be engaged with the life of the command itself,” said Hendricks. “Knowing the heart of the command’s mission is so important for us to align with the needs of the individuals we provide guidance for. We are a part of that team. We never stand separate, we stand together.”
With events like the Professional Naval Chaplaincy Excellence Award ceremony, the chaplain corps is taking steps to recognize those individuals who have gone above and beyond for their units and the overall success of the Marine Corps mission.