Sgt. 1st Class Adam Phelps and Sgt. Daniel Johnson
2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs
25th Infantry Division
FORT IRWIN, Calif. — With combat operations, tactical movements and intelligence gathering happening simultaneously, sometimes it is easy to forget the individual hardships each Soldier faces.
That is when the chaplain’s role becomes instrumental.
As the warriors of the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team practiced force-on-force operations at the National Training Center, here, stress levels were running high and Chaplain (Maj.) David R. Schlichter, 2nd SBCT, provided them a safe place to vent their hardships.
“It’s just the two of us, and we’re out in the shade of the water buffalo. It’s a confidential environment,” said Schlichter. “Everything that is said between the two of us is sealed until my death, no matter what it is. So, Soldiers frequently feel very refreshed.”
“It relieves the stress that’s building up inside everyone. It’s a pressure release valve almost,” said Spc. Russell S. Guercio, signal intelligence specialist, 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd SBCT. “They can kind of somewhat recharge for five minutes talking to him, getting their minds off the task at hand. It’s like a refresher, a breath mint for the brain.”
Sometimes overlooked as a source of mental care, the brigade chaplaincy provides a range of services for Soldiers. Providing religious support and advising the commander are the chaplain’s functions, but he does that in multiple ways, said Schlichter.
“We care for the living,” said Schlichter. “That’s a real passion of mine, because I love my Soldiers, and whether it’s combat stress, just the field environment, leadership issues or being away from home. I deal in the human factor, whatever that Soldier has or whatever they’re dealing with, I’m going to meet them with strength and encouragement, and bring some wisdom and council to build them up.”
“Levity,” said Guercio. “He can make someone smile when they’re having a bad day, so bringing a somber mood to a lighter mood. Also, if someone is really down and really has problems, he is someone safe to talk to.”
For those who see the chaplain first as a religious leader, with Schlichter, that isn’t necessarily the case. For him, meeting the Soldiers at a human level is the most important key.
“Regardless of your faith background, I want to meet you first as a human, and then I will typically ask ‘What’s your first name?’ and in that setting with just the two of us. I will be Dave and you will be Adam, and it takes that rank off and it breaks it down. I’m going to meet you as a human being.”
The chaplain’s tools aren’t limited to just the battlefield or even to Soldiers. Chaplains also provide various services to couples and families.
Schlichter regards his two master’s degrees in counseling as his portable tools when he meets with Soldiers.
“I love to share my tools and teach those tools to that Soldier. It’s going to change their life,” said Schlichter. “It’s going to change how they process things, how they handle things. … They are now stronger and more equipped than they were before.”