24th MEU breeds special kind of chaplains

19 Jul 2002 | Sgt. Zachary A. Bathon

While there are many unsung heroes that play a part in the success of a unit, there are only a few that have as diverse a role as the chaplains.

Whether it is dealing with religious or social issues or acting as a professional adviser to the commanding officer, the chaplains provide many services that aid their fellow Marines and Sailors.

For the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Special Operations Capable (SOC) there are three such men, Cmdr. Bryan Weaver, 24th MEU chaplain; Navy Lt. Willie Onuh, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines chaplain; and Navy Lt. Robert J. Fitkin, MEU Service Support Group 24 chaplain.

Combined, these three men form the 24th MEU's Religious Ministry Team. "Together, we are like a three-strand cord that is not easily broken," said Weaver, known by the Marines in the MEU as "Battle Chaps". "We work hard to support each other and our Marines and Sailors."

"A lot of people are not exactly sure what the chaplain does," said Onuh. "Our job is so diverse and we provide support in so many ways, it is nice to be able to work with the other chaplains. I am able to take care of all the Catholics across the board and not just the ones in the BLT. It is the same for the other chaplains."

In addition to their individual and collective strengths, there is one thing that makes these men stand out from their fellow chaplains. It is the sacrifice and dedication they show by being part of a MEU.

"Being a MEU chaplain requires many things," said Weaver. "Among these are stamina, endurance, physical fitness, situational awareness and the need to be operationally savvy."

"A MEU chaplain also has to think like a Marine," added Weaver. "He needs to be cognizant of operations and missions and have an understanding of tactics, so he is not a liability to the Marines he is out there to serve."

Since these chaplains may find themselves in almost any situation or scenario you can think of, the need for them to be up on their basic Marine skills is a must.

"To serve with a MEU the chaplain has got to be willing to go to the field," said Weaver. "He has to be where they are, so he can listen to them and offer his help in certain situations. I call this 'ministry of presence'. Not only does it boost the morale of the troops, it allows the chaplain to be accessible to the people who may need him."

With all of these characteristics and the strong desire to be with their Marines and Sailors in their arsenal, the 24th MEU's Religious Ministry Team works together to provide the best support they can.

"In these uncertain times, I look forward to bringing a sense of certainty, peace, and power in their lives to overcome anything they might face on this deployment," said Fitkin.

With the MEU set to step off on its routine six-month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea sometime in late August, Weaver said he and his fellow chaplains are looking forward to the challenges ahead and are ready to tackle anything that may come their way.