May 7, 2009

Chaplain support team says good bye to packed house

By Capt. Matt Nowak
Virginia Army Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — In a building packed with family, friends and dignitaries, the Virginia National Guard’s 134th Chaplain Support Team participated in a departure ceremony May 3 at its home station of Fort Pickett.

Organized in 2006 and one of two five-person chaplain detachment teams in the National Guard, the 134th CST is the first National Guard unit of its kind to deploy into a combat zone.

  134th Chaplain Support Team

Members of the 134th Chaplain Support Team pose with their unit guidon at the end of their departure ceremony May 3 at Fort Pickett. From  left to right, Spc. Lennie Dunlap, Chaplain (Capt.) Carl Hagwood,  Martinsville Mayor Cathy Lawson, Del. Vivian Watts, Sgt. 1st Class Bum  Kim and Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Gilleran. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) Click HERE for a full size photo.

For this mission, four Soldiers from the team will deploy to Kuwait for a year, with the possibility of additional missions tin the Central Command Area of Operations. The team includes two chaplains and two chaplain assistants.

Del. Vivian Watts from the 39th District in Fairfax County, Mayor Cathy Lawson of Martinsville, Maj. Gen Robert B. Newman, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, Brig. Gen. Stephen Huxtable, the Assistant Adjutant General for Army, and retired Chaplain (Brig. Gen.) Doug Lee attended the departure ceremony along with friends, family and fellow members of the Virginia National Guard.

“We are thankful for this opportunity to represent the commonwealth and the Virginia National Guard,” Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Gilleran explained. “This is a different type of mission because we will provide religious support through a full spectrum of operations.”

As the command chaplain, Gilleran will support the 1st Theater Support Command. Along with advising commanders on religious matters, he expects to backfill other chaplains who are in the process of rotating out of theater or taking leave.

Joining Gilleran is Chaplain (Capt.) Carl Hagwood, who will be performing Unit Ministry Team duties in a chapel setting. When not in uniform, both chaplains serve the Martinsville, Va., community, Gilleran with Hope Presbyterian Church and Hagwood with the Agape Bible Christian Fellowship.

The two congregations came together May 4 in Martinsville to conduct a joint service to bid farewell to the two ministers, and members of the congregation expressed their support and pride for the mission the chaplains were undertaking.

In a brief speech Lawson said, “Martinsville is very proud of these chaplains.”

Both chaplains are complemented with chaplain’s assistants. Sgt. 1st Class Bum Kim from Annandale, Va., will serve as Gilleran’s assistant and the noncommissioned officer in charge of the section.

“I admit, I am nervous about deploying to Kuwait,” explained Kim, whose wife is expecting a son at the end of May. “I am sad to leave my wife and three-year-old daughter, but proud to do my duty as a Soldier.”

Rounding out the team is Hagwood’s assistant Spc. Lennie Dunlop from Gate City, Va. In order to deploy, Dunlop will interrupt her pursuit of a Business Administration degree from University of Virginia's College at Wise.

In preparation for the deployment both Kim and Dunlop became proficient with their weapons. Chaplains do not carry weapons, so the assistants provide security and would respond to hostile fire. The team spent time training at Fort Pickett conducting battle drills such as reacting to enemy fire or improvised explosive device. The team will travel to Camp Shelby, Miss., in order to complete its training before deploying to Kuwait.

Along with ministry services, chaplains have the responsibility for caring for the spiritual well-being of Soldiers. They also provide guidance to commanders in all religious matters.

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