Greetings from Fort Hood
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Greetings from North Fort Hood, where the Soldiers of the 638th Aviation Support Battalion are hard at work preparing for their Culminating Training Exercise (CTE) on way to validation to go overseas. The exercise is coming up soon, and in advance of the exercise we've been working on a variety of skills and capabilities, from our mechanics to our communications teams, our operations to our personnel sections, from our refuelers to our unit ministry team, and more. It's been a time of training and preparation not just for the CTE, but ultimately for our work overseas.
The Unit Ministry Team oscillates between 1) "real world" care-giving situations, 2) direct religious support in the form of Bible Study, worship, prayer, and, 3) the staff work required both for the training exercise and the upcoming mission downrange.
Last week for Ash Wednesday CPL Ray (my Religious Affairs Specialist) and I went around to two different training locations to administer ashes to Soldiers who were not able to get to any of the Ash Wednesday services offered. Most Soldiers do not come from a liturgical Christian background where ashes are imposed, but for those who do and were not able to attend services, they were grateful for the chance to pause their training for a moment of prayer, a reading from Psalm 103, the imposition of ashes, and an encouragement to keep the disciplines of Lent. Imposing ashes on the foreheads of young Soldiers at the edge of an airfield filled with Blackhawks and Chinooks was certainly a new experience for me.
Another ministry I've kicked off is an e-devotional, sending devotions to Soldiers via WhatsApp, a messaging app that works really well overseas (and after our Soldiers spread out to nearly 20 locations in multiple countries. I'm using the Bible Story Outline I developed at New Joy over the past few years, and we're currently walking through the six primary movements of the Bible's Story. I love that in such simple ways I am able to bring our ministry at New Joy to touch the lives of the Soldiers I serve with.
There has been a lot of sickness running through the barracks. Most Soldiers are living in open bay barracks, and it doesn't take long for a cold or the flu to run through the ranks. I am just getting over a 5+ day bout with influenza,, and was on quarantine for three days. I certainly hope that's the last time I deal with the flu any time soon.
I'm told by those who have gone through this mobilization cycle that the time at North Fort Hood is the hardest part of the entire deployment - it has fewer comforts and conveniences, for example, and the schedule tends to be longer, than what we should encounter overseas. So while I'd love it if you could send a few sofas (I'm really missing a comfortable place to sit!) and some creature comforts (like maybe a cheesesteak from Penn Station), at this point I ask for your prayers for a continued safe training. With the wonderful care packages you sent early in our time here, and the packages from other families and groups, we're feeling the love of our family and friends back home. Thank you!
However, it's not all bad here - high temperatures here range from the upper 50s and the lower 70s. It's great running weather - when I don't have the flu, that is!I miss you all, and am grateful for your prayers and support. May this Lenten season be a time of renewal of faith and of mission for you!