RPs celebrate 34 years of supporting Chaplain Corps

Lt. Matthew Shepard, command chaplain, NMCB 3

Lt. Matthew Shepard, command chaplain, NMCB 3

As I write this article, the religious program specialist (RP) rate is celebrating its birthday! I’m sure chaplains throughout the fleet agree with me in affirming and appreciating the invaluable support that RPs bring to the chaplain ministry.

Thirty-four years ago, the Navy realized the need to provide chaplains with a Sailor specifically trained and tasked to help them meet the four core functions of the Chaplain Corps: provide, facilitate, care and advise. The Navy currently has 889 religious program specialists, both active-duty and reserve; 424 currently serve with Marine units.

In the Seabee battalions, the chaplain and RP comprise what we call the Religious Ministry Team.

Two Scripture passages from the book of Ecclesiastes come to mind reflecting the unique relationship shared between a chaplain and RP:

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer.”

Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class Brian Adamson explains, “I provide administrative support and force protection in contingency environments.” Adamson’s attitude embodies the heart of what enables the RP rate to serve as a chaplain ministry force multiplier. From managing community relations activities to setting up command surveys, from filtering walk-ins to scheduling counseling appointments and filling in as department head, RPs play a vital role in the overall success of the chaplain office.

Beyond their professional responsibilities, RPs also serve an invaluable relational role in the unit. As a fellow enlisted service member, the RP understands that oftentimes junior troops are more comfortable talking with and confiding in the RP than in engaging the chaplain directly. In this way, the RP is able to create a relational bridge, guiding a shipmate toward emotional and spiritual resources that a chaplain can provide.

While we focus our celebration on the RPs, let us also reflect on how we all serve on various “teams” in our personal communities, and how, in those teams, we can embody the heart of an RP. In what relationships can you offer the support of encouragement or strength? What personal mission can you get behind to protect and defend?

In closing, the following excerpt is from “Navy Live: The Official Blog of the United States Navy”:

“Over the past 34 years, RPs have proven their value time and time again as professional partners within the Religious Ministry Team, supporting chaplains who provide, facilitate, care and advise Marines, Sailors and their families. At sea, ashore, and in combat, RPs have been the go-to people for chaplains needing to get something done. Whether providing security support in combat and conflict environments, providing critical logistical support for services or directly engaging in humanitarian relief operations, RPs continue to exceed the expected.”

© 2013 Ventura County Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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CAPT. LARRY VASQUEZ

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NSWC Port Hueneme and representatives from eight allied, international navies joined forces on April 7 to establish a unified strategic plan for modernizing and sustaining the MK 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) on a global scale, yielding enhanced worldwide fleet readiness and collective maritime strength against ever-evolving threats.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
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