Weapons Not Always Required

Editor's note: U.S. Army Capt. Dan Sukman is serving a one-year deployment to Iraq. For previous entries and his bio, see the Soldier's Diary archives.

April 8, 2006
2230 hours

I spent most of today reviewing our company property book, which I will be signing for in about a month. The property book lists every item that belongs to a specific unit.

American taxpayers trust the military with an enormous amount of property that costs ungodly amounts of money. From bullets to weapons to the chair I am sitting on and the computer I am typing this in, someone has signed for it, usually a company commander.

I have been told many times by those I work for that captains don’t run the Army. I wholeheartedly agree. But I think I can make a good argument that while we don’t run the Army, we sure the heck have signed for it.

• Readers write to Captain Dan

April 9
2300 hours

Sunday is a good day for our staff. It’s the only day of the week that we do not schedule a meeting before noon. So, as long as a mission is not ongoing, most of the staff takes full advantage and won’t get into the office until 1000 hours or so. It’s the closest to a day off that soldiers, NCOs (non-commissioned officers) and officers get in a yearlong deployment, not including two weeks of mid-tour leave.

Captain Shaffer and I talked over this point during lunch today. There is time off, but most soldiers do not take full advantage of it. Most would rather be working, out on a mission or solving a problem as opposed to taking time off and doing nothing.

I don’t mean to say time is not spent on e-mail, reading, or hitting the gym — we all make time for that — but when you know another soldier is depending on you to get a job done, work comes first. I think it really speaks to the dedication of soldiers deployed overseas. Ask most when they get back how many days of leave they have saved up — it is a telling figure.

Sunday is the busiest day for the chaplains assigned to our brigade. Every unit at the battalion level and above has a chaplain assigned to it, with the purpose of providing religious support to soldiers. It’s an important job, and involves more than giving an hour-long service once a week.

Chaplains provide counseling to soldiers, give commanders feedback on morale, and arrange services for soldiers of different faiths. On our FOB (forward operating base), Protestants, Catholics, Baptists, Jews, Latter Day Saints and a number of others all have the opportunity to attend their respective service over the weekend. There is only one chapel on our FOB, so time is split among the faiths that attend.

It’s amazing when you think about it. We have so many soldiers of all different faiths and backgrounds serving together, but no one gives it a second thought. If you ever want to see a real melting pot, take a look at the military. Just another reason I love my job.

Chaplains also go out to soldiers who can't attend service at the chapel. Throughout the week, they move from FOB to FOB and to patrol bases to ensure soldiers out there have the opportunity to worship. It may not be on a Sunday, but when every day is Groundhog Day, the effort is much appreciated.

Capt. Jimmy Nichols is our brigade chaplain. Prior to serving with our unit, he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, where he served with paratroopers in Afghanistan. Jimmy does not carry a weapon, but he is proof that you don't need to pull a trigger to fight the War on Terror.

Jimmy has been instrumental in maintaining the morale of soldiers assigned to our brigade. He is always willing to sit down and talk to soldiers of any rank and position, even those of us who attend church twice a year (Christmas and Easter). Jimmy has even taken on the task of informing the staff each day on the customs and history of Islam, as we all know how important it is to understand not just who we are fighting, but who we are fighting with.

E-mail Captain Dan at soldiersdiary@gmail.com. Click here to read his bio.