First `Freedom Chapel? opens in Iraq
By Petersi Lui
September 24, 2003
CAMP CEDAR II, Iraq (Army News Service, Sept. 24, 2003)- Chaplains from four different battalions joined pastoral forces for a dedication Sept. 14 of the first ?Freedom Chapel? built at Camp Cedar II in Iraq.
Before the consolidation, the chaplains had performed their services separately in four different battalion Morale, Welfare and Recreation tents.
?Those MWR tents confused many soldiers who sought chaplain assistance. Sometimes they discovered it was not a place dedicated for worship due to scheduling conflicts,? said Maj. Susan Addams, chaplain of the 171st Area Support Group who visits Camp Cedar regularly from a neighboring camp in Tallil, Iraq.
?Now, all service members and civilian contractors have access to a wider variety of religious programs in a dedicated chapel,? she said.
The chaplains had a number of programs that before were not available to the other battalions? service members. For example, services were conducted in Spanish by Capt. Abimael Rodriguez, chaplain of the 394th Quartermaster Battalion.
Kellogg, Brown and Root, the company contracted to build the chapel, started construction in June. The original floor plan called for nothing more than the erection of a general-purpose empty tent. However, the chaplains gathered together their needs and wishes and asked KBR to include additional specifications, said Sterling.
The happy outcome includes seating for 200 worshippers, two private offices, three decorative tables, a waiting room, a lectern, an altar, columns, light fixtures, ventilation frames and a colored ?Freedom Chapel? sign in front of the chapel, he said.
?We appreciate KBR?s consideration. They really went all the way to make service members feel that this comfortable chapel is a place of peace for worship,? said Sterling. ?That is especially important when we counsel hundreds of traumatized soldiers who have lost comrades.?
On Sept. 15, the day after the dedication ceremony, the Freedom Chapel was put to use for one of its sadder purposes. A memorial service was held for Spc. Ryan Carlock, a driver with the 416th Transportation Company who was killed Sept. 9 while driving with a convoy. More than 250 people showed up at the new chapel to pay their respects.
?In the past, we held memorials outside on sand and dust. Now we have a chapel. It is a more peaceful place,? said Spc. Wesley Blachard, a friend of Carlock and a 416th driver, too.
Balancing soldiers? spiritual needs and mission demands, the chaplains have split the chapel schedule so that service members have full access to all chaplain services, said Addams.
On Sundays, each of the four Cedar II chaplains holds a service in the Freedom Chapel. On Mondays, Rodriguez conducts Spanish Bible study and gospel choir practice. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, Bible studies are led by Maj. Scott Sterling, chaplain of the 260th Quartermaster Battalion; 1st Lt. Mark Minner, chaplain of the 362nd Quartermaster Battalion and Maj. Robert Searle, chaplain of the 346th Transportation Battalion. On Wednesdays, a Roman Catholic chaplain from a neighboring camp performs Mass. On Saturdays, a visiting Jewish, Catholic or Protestant chaplain holds services.
The chapel is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, but a chaplain is always on call 24 hours to offer the comfort of faith at the Freedom Chapel.
(Editor?s note: Spc. Petersi Liu is a member of the Public Affairs Office for the
Coalition Forces Land Component Command.)