Bringing God To The Front

The Early Show Correspondent Melinda Murphy goes to Fort Jackson, S.C., military chaplains, God, religion, men preys
CBS/The Early Show
In times of turmoil, trouble and terror, many, including those who have to fight the wars, look to religion and religious figures for comfort. The Early Show correspondent Melinda Murphy spends some time with the people who bring God to the front lines at the Army's chaplain school at Fort Jackson, S.C.

Just like any soldier, Army chaplains rise at dawn for some rigorous physical training. But their days in the military involve spiritual as well physical concerns.

Chaplain Maj. Brent Causey says, "When you're out there in the morning at 0 dark hundred doing PT (physical training), they see you and they know that you represent God and you're automatically their chaplain and it doesn't matter their faith."

Sometimes the spirit is willing, even if the body isn't.

While running with the others, Chaplain Peter Uhde says, "my knees have a serious talk with me every night, but I'm amazed the exercise I'm doing and I don't mind it that much."

Before coming to the school, Uhde was 70 pounds heavier and a Catholic priest in Newark, N.J., for 22 years. "A lot of people were upset," he said, referring to the parishioners he left behind when he headed to chaplain school.

Chaplain Capt. Joseph Hammiel says, "The calling is just something that I know deep down inside is the right thing for me to be doing. It's not something that we drummed up from a sense of patriotism."

It's a calling answered by leaders of many faiths. There are religious services for all, but most of the time is spent in the classroom.

1st Lt. Christine Waweru says she is studying "what it is to be a soldier. What it is that a soldier goes through."

Chaplains have guided troops through every one of our nation's conflicts, sometimes at great personal risk, but they didn't get much formal training until the school opened in 1918.

Four chaplains were aboard the Dorchester during World War II.

Curator Marcia McManus says, "They were torpedoed by a U-boat, and within 20 minutes, the Dorchester sank. And the four chaplains gave up their life preservers to the young troops, and just held hands and went down with the ship."

Maj. Causey knows firsthand just how dangerous this ministry can be. Deployed with troops in Kosovo, Rwanda and during the Gulf War in 1991, he is now the school's senior instructor.

"Keep your focus. Keep your calling, what you're here for. And that's to provide ministry to our soldiers," he tells his class.

Causey got his calling at age 16. And from his first day with the troops, he knew this is where God wanted him to be.

"These soldiers are incredible," he says, "and to know that you can be with them in the highest stress of their life and to help to bring a little bit of calmness to them and to bring God to them is wonderful."

Chaplains are non-combatants so their only protection is their faith in God and a chaplain assistant - an enlisted soldier assigned to be a chaplain's right hand in the garrison and protector in the field.

And there are some things that no classroom can really prepare you for, like comforting dying friends as Chaplain Causey did in the Gulf War.

"They're trusting you. And they're giving everything to you, entrusting you with their last words, trusting you with their last bit of faith and their last grasp of God," he says. "So it's such an honor to be able to be there with them, even though it is difficult, because your heart breaks as you're there with them."

Each chaplain prays no one is harmed, prays for an end to the conflict, prays for peace. But each also believes if there is a war, God is still loving.

"I think his will is to bring about peace in the most expedient way that he can," says one, "and I'm not wise enough to answer how that is done, but I trust that God is."

This class of chaplains will graduate in a few weeks, with a real possibility that many of them will be deployed.

There are some 1,300 army chaplains on active duty - one for each battalion of some 500 soldiers - and an immediate need for 200 more Catholic chaplains.

Meanwhile, these chaplains will put their faith in God while keeping step with troops facing the challenges of war.