To someone with no military ties it might be hard to understand what a military chaplain does. A military chaplain is a jack of all trades. It is not uncommon for a chaplain to be a spiritual leader, jump master and paratrooper. Where their soldiers go, so too will the chaplain.
To further cement themselves as military leaders, chaplains across the 82nd Airborne Division and Fort Bragg led more than 200 paratroopers during the St. Michael’s Jump onto Sicily Drop Zone at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, May 8.
The Saint Michael’s Jump is meant to celebrate the airborne community’s patron saint and promote spiritual resiliency across the Division.
Known to many as “All American Shepard” Col. Randy Griffin, the 82nd Airborne Division chaplain, said the Saint Michael’s Jump is significant in several ways, starting with the way a paratrooper qualifies to get on the jump.
“You have to go through a spiritual training event with your unit chaplain,” said Griffin, a native of Kinston, North Carolina. “That could be a physical fitness spiritual event or some other type of formal spiritual fitness event, but that connection is made with the paratrooper and their unit chaplain before the jump ever takes place.”
Then on the day of the jump, with the connection and relationship firmly in place, the chaplains have an opportunity to help instill hope and courage into their paratroopers. Sometimes this is through prayer, sustained airborne training or when they perform jumpmaster duties during the jump.
Griffin said it all comes together at the end of the jump.
“We give the history of the St. Michael’s jump and the history of St. Michael,” said Griffin. “That gives paratroopers an opportunity to learn something about the airborne community that they would never have known had they not been on a St. Michael’s jump.”
The Saint Michael’s Day Jump is a longstanding tradition in the 82nd. Griffin couldn’t pinpoint the exact year it started, but he said it’s been going on for a long time.
“I would venture to say that from the time we became an airborne division,” said Griffin. “The St. Michael’s Jump and the recognition of St. Michael as the archangel that watches over and protects paratroopers, that understanding, that concept, has been around since the conception of the airborne community.”
For Griffin the St. Michaels Day Jump is nothing new, but for Capt. Juman Kim, chaplain for the 307th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Abn. Div., this was his first chance to experience the jump that’s so closely tied to his chosen profession.
“This was a little windier than the rest, but I liked it a lot because I got to lead, and we got to pray and see other units together,” said Kim. “It was great.”
Though he’s only been in the U.S. Army for a little over a year and this was his first St. Michael’s Jump, Kim said being a paratrooper has helped him be a better chaplain.
“I can share and I can listen to what paratroopers go through,” said Kim. “Then, I can fully support and understand their agony, their suffering and their excitement as well.”
Likewise, Kim feels that being a chaplain has enhanced his abilities as a paratrooper.
“Being a chaplain means that I can be there with people, and I can pray with them,” said Kim. “Each time I jump out of a plane, I have a security in my heart that God will provide.”
“This gives me extra courage to be paratrooper,” Kim added.
After the jump, Capt. Hank Mauterer, chaplain for Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 82nd Abn. Div., led Family resiliency training for the paratroopers and dozens of Family members in attendance. He said that the most critical and influential factor in paratroopers’ lives is their relationship with God, spouse and family.
“Paratroopers, who develop a purposed approach to maintaining and growing these relationships, discover a synergetic treasure trove that empowers them to great heights,” said Mauterer.
The training related Family resiliency to the commands the paratroopers receive in an aircraft prior to jumping. Mauterer’s most powerful moment came when he likened resiliency to the final command a paratrooper hears before exiting an aircraft, “Go.”
“The Scriptures say ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ for ‘With God all things are possible,’” said Mauterer. “If you make sure you’re properly connected, to God and family, when you’re jumping out of an airplane in flight you can boldly leap forth with confidence and defeat the enemy.”
Mauterer continued on saying that when paratroopers and their Families face the rigorous trials of life they can beat temptations and the works of the devil.
“When you’re defending your marriage against the onslaught of the world and those difficult moments between you and your spouse, by your love, you two can take on the world,” said Mauterer. “Paratroopers, go!”