JOINT BASE McGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. –
Army Reserve Soldiers from the 327th Quartermaster Battalion of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, 475th Quartermaster Group, 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), 377th Sustainment Command, conducted M4 and M16 weapons training Saturday at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Between safety briefs, zeroing, and qualifications, it was your ordinary day on the range. Upon closer inspection, however, there was a less than ordinary sight: a chaplain, laying in the sand at the firing line, not qualifying himself, but doling out marksmanship advice to Soldiers.
“Get your sight picture, then control your breathing,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Double, a chaplain candidate, as he coached Pfc. Malik Wertman through another round of zeroing. Once Wertman fired his three rounds, and range safety gave the all-clear, they advanced to the target, where Double outlined Wertman’s grouping.
“Watch your trigger squeeze,” said Double, as he pointed to the grouping’s horizontal spread.
Wertman, a native of Muncy, Pennsylvania, took his advice. His next grouping was significantly tighter.
“He’s a good one,” said Capt. Michael Willoughby, the executive officer for the 327th. It was a sentiment echoed by junior and senior members of the 327th alike.
“He likes to be out in the environment, learning the culture, being around Soldiers,” said Willoughby, a native of Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania. “When I reached out to the brigade and asked for support, Double just jumped right in.”
Double, who is working toward his Master of Divinity in nondenominational Christianity at Liberty University, drove across the length of Pennsylvania on Friday to spend the weekend with the 327th. Assigned to the 475th Quartermaster Group of Farrell, Pennsylvania, he has traveled every other month this year to visit subordinate units.
“Chaplains have a battle circulation plan just like any commander would. We saw the 327th would be short of chaplain coverage and I volunteered,” he said.
“I love coming out to the field. I love getting out with Soldiers because that’s where the ministry is.” It helps that marksmanship is a personal hobby of his, he admitted with a grin.
Double obtained his commission through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Slippery Rock University. He had his eyes set on serving as an infantry officer up until his junior year, when he began to feel a pull toward the ministry.
“So I answered the call,” said Double, who hopes to serve Soldiers full-time on active duty once he finishes his degree.
As a chaplain, Double’s enthusiasm for field training is unique but necessary, said Willoughby.
“Soldiers need to see the chaplain, and he eats this stuff up. He loves being around Soldiers, and that’s what we need. Soldiers are more open about speaking to chaplains than their leaders sometimes.”
“We encounter a lot of issues surrounding family and work,” said Double between zeroing sessions. “The biggest things I’ve seen are marital and relationship issues because those are really hard to put away. If Soldiers have financial issues, we can put them on orders. But when you have relationship issues, you can’t turn that off. It’s going to stick with you.”
As a chaplain, he is both a resource and a friend, he attested.
“What can I do for you? Soldiers are worried that if they come talk to the chaplain, that it has to be spiritual or religious in nature. If you want to have that conversation, I’m here. But if you want to just sit down and talk about sports or travel, we’ll have that conversation too. I’m here to help relieve stress or any kind of burden in your life.”
Double faithfully remained on the firing line for the remainder of the morning. After a few hours in the sand, he finally unclasped his helmet and returned to the bleachers. He milled around Soldiers still waiting to fire, making small talk here and there. Soon after he met with Willoughby and other leaders of the 327th to discuss his plans for a religious service that he would conduct here – right on the range.