An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.













NEWS | Oct. 17, 2022

Building the Engineer Soul

By Maj. William Allred 412th Theater Engineer Command

Through weeks of 12-hour days, 100-plus degree temperatures, raging weather, and impossible demands in foreign lands, 412th Theater Engineer Command (TEC) Soldiers look to a specialist of spirit to provide guidance, an attentive ear, and hope.

The Army recently renamed the spiritual section of “Chaplain” to Religious Affairs (RA). Its leader still mantled as Chaplain and its enlisted personnel retitled RA Specialists. These selfless heroes make themselves available at any time – day or night – for any Soldier or her/his family members who needs their help.

Col. David T. Stauffer, 412th TEC Chaplain, shared that its mission is “to perform or provide pastoral coverage for Soldiers and their families,” but it is much more than that. He said that he wants people visiting his section to have an “experience of an atmosphere of genuine interest and respect for their concerns.”

Stating that a Soldier’s life can be hard is like saying the desert can be hot – an oversimplification. The RA personnel understand that and seek to help Soldiers through difficult times privately.

“(The Religious Affairs section personnel) have confidentiality – 100 percent, not 90 or 95,” said Master Sgt. Emmanuel Reyes-Fernandez, 412th TEC Master RA Specialist. “So, it’s a great tool that we have. We can listen to anyone from (the most junior enlisted) to (general officers), and it stays with us.”

David L. Arthur, 412th Suicide Prevention Program Manager, agreed on that point. He said, “The Religious Affairs section possesses 100% confidentiality which plays a large role in boosting the morale of a Soldiers because they know they have someone they can talk to and get guidance on a way forward.”

While not physically alleviating Soldiers’ burdens, RA personnel give support in perhaps the most important way. They strengthen Soldiers’ resolve by lifting internal weights and managing individual stress levels, whether through religion or what is important to whomever they speak. One way is through face-to-face counseling.

Master Sgt. Tamela Strong-Foster, 412th TEC Senior Food Service Specialist, spoke of such a situation prior to a deployment. She knew a troubled senior enlisted to whom she suggested a visit with the unit Chaplain. The visit improved the Soldier going forward.

“(The Chaplain, Soldier and I) sat down and figured out the root of the issue,” said Strong-Foster. “Once that was resolved, (the Soldier) deployed and has had a great career ever since. That visit changed (the Soldier's) whole mindset and attitude. The Chaplain showed so much compassion and concern. It really meant a lot to see that.”

Wise words, comprehension and empathy are the critical tools that RA personnel are trained to use to bolster their unit’s morale. While if the circumstance is beyond them, they escort people in their care to specialized counselors for continued support and healing.

“One time, a Soldier told me that (they were) going to commit a crime – a serious crime,” said Reyes-Fernandez. “(After we spoke) I was able to take this Soldier to counseling. To this day, the Soldier performs well and is still in the Army, I believe. I was able to help the situation.”

With such understanding and persistent follow-through, Reyes insisted that RA Specialists are not counselors. Instead, he said that you must be relatable to people – “open, approachable and just make people feel welcome.”

Stauffer agreed and said that when Soldiers visit with the RA section and speak with one of its members, “we want them to know we are a team where trust and understanding is a primary goal.”

Therefore, chaplains and their enlisted build the souls of Soldiers through spirituality, guidance and, above all, hope, leading to healthier, motivated Engineers ready to build a successful Army.