Navy RPs: More than a bodyguard

16 Dec 2002 | Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Misfeldt

Being forward deployed and separated from family members can seem difficult at times, even for the toughest Sailors and Marines. This is a time when people sometimes need emotional and spiritual guidance. When the tough times come, Sailors and Marines often turn to the Navy's religious program specialists and chaplains. Navy RP's are the backbone of the religious corps, and aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA-4) they are assigned to both the ship's Chaplain's Office and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) Chaplain's Office. RPs help coordinate religious services while at sea and also ensure that the chaplains are safe while deployed in the field with the 24th MEU. "We provide security for the Chaplains when they are conducting religious services in the field," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Beeler Jr, an RP assigned to the 24th MEU (SOC). "We also help to coordinate religious services while we are in the field. When we are on board, we have more (administrative) duties and help the RPs, who are assigned to the ship, with their normal everyday work." The RP rating encompasses much more than just setting up for religious services. "When assigned to a ship, you are responsible for managing the ship's library," said Chief Petty Officer Maureen Sciandra. "You are also there to help organize community relations projects, handle Red Cross messages, and make sure the crew has access to the ship's chaplain." The RPs onboard Nassau are in charge of handling all Red Cross messages that are received by the ship, for both Navy personnel assigned onboard USS Nassau and Marine personnel assigned to the 24th MEU (SOC). Sailors choose to become RP's for a number of reasons. " I wanted to be a minister, and I felt that this would be the best way for me to learn what would be in store for me down the road," said Seaman Paul Balch, an RP assigned to PHIBRON TWO, embarked onboard USS NASSAU. "I have always been drawn to the church, and I knew that my best route to succeed in this field would be to learn from those who do this type of job everyday. So I joined the Navy to learn this specific job, and I have never regretted that decision." Chaplains have more than enough to do on a daily basis, and it is the RP's who make their job a little bit easier."The RP's job is to act as the Chaplain's bodyguard while we are in the field with the Marines," said Lt. Cmdr. Robert Callison, Nassau's Command Chaplain. "While on board, they act as our (administrative assistant) and handle the paperwork that is involved. They also have to be familiar with every service that we offer, so that they can prepare for it. They also have to have the background knowledge of the different religions so that we can conduct service." Being an RP is by no means an easy job. It takes hard work and dedication to be successful. RPs assigned to NASSAU and the 24th MEU (SOC) have shown that they have the desire to be successful and make the crew feel welcome when they come to religious services. "The Chaplains and RP's are a team," said Sciandra. " They rely strongly on each other for the overall success of the command's religious team."