KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany –
Across Army ranks in the United States, the Chaplain Candidate Program helps U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers train to become an Army Chaplain while simultaneously training for the ministry. But the program never existed in Europe, until recently.
U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain (1st Lt.) Gabriel Pech, 7th Mission Support Command, became the first officer to pin Chaplain after completing the Chaplain Candidate Program in Europe, and received the Army Chaplain cross during a pinning ceremony held at the Daenner Kaserne Chapel, here, Jan. 22.
“In the history of the 7th or the U.S. Army Reserve, we’ve never had anyone do this here in Europe,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Robert Crawford, command Chaplain for the 7th MSC.
U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains, Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Thomas L. Solhjem, officiated the ceremony, leading a prayer for the newest Chaplain to pin on the cross.
“It was a really big deal to have him here,” said Pech. “Along with my family and amongst other Chaplains I respect and who’ve gone through this journey, I felt really honored.”
All Chaplain candidates are commissioned officers assigned to the Army Reserve, or Army National Guard in the Chaplain branch. Pech was in the Chaplain Candidate Program stateside while completing his Seminary and reached out to Crawford about continuing the program with his move to Germany, as the 7th MSC is the only Army Reserve unit in Europe.
“(Pech) reached out to me and said, I want to continue the program over here and we said ok, we haven’t done this before, let’s see what it takes,” said Crawford.
Crawford reached out for help and found out what it took to pick up and continue the Chaplain Candidate Program under the 7th MSC in Europe.
“Once the program was in place, it just snowballed and other people started picking it up and now we have six people engaged in the program,” said Crawford.
A candidate has six years to finish the program once they start, which includes completing Seminary and Chaplain Basic Officer Leader Course.
“While I was in the Chaplain Candidate Program, I was in school full-time,” said Pech. “So I would go once a month to do my Reserve time shadowing a Chaplain, and then I was in Seminary the rest of the time.”
With the program in place now, the 7th MSC stands to gain Chaplains.
“It’s been really hard to fill our billets because normally we depend on the active component to lose people,” said Crawford. “So this is a way to feed ourselves.”
Pech will now take on the battalion Chaplain role for the 457th Civil Affairs Battalion, 361st Civil Affairs Brigade under the 7th MSC.
“I think it’s a big deal to be able to tell the story of how pastors off the street come in as candidates, go through the program and realize this is what I want to do, this is the calling that I have for my life,” said Pech. “They get to come in as a full-fledged Chaplain and then go serve our Soldiers and bring God to them and bring them to God and help boost the morale, it’s pretty cool.”