Monday, September 15, 2014

Far East Daily Blog #3

September 15, 2014 The day began for us under clear skies at Naval Station Yokosuka. Chaplain Cam Fish and I met early and made the trek over to the ships piers where we boarded the USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19), the command ship for the U.S. Seventh Fleet. After a brief tour of the ship we paid a call upon the Seventh Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Robert Thomas. My greatest amazement came at the briefing he gave me on the extent of his responsibilities in the Far East: essentially from China and Taiwan to Australia and New Zealand. Though the number of ships and Sailors in the fleet is growing, it will always be a tremendous challenge to ensure freedom of the seas for that large an area. As is the case with almost every senior commander with whom I have visited during the past 4+ years, Admiral Thomas is clear that one of his greatest challenges is to keep his people mentally, physically and spiritually sharp. He and Chaplain Cam Fish emphasized to me how important the chaplains of the Fleet are when it comes to the achievement of that goal. After meeting with Admiral Thomas I had a brief visit with his Chief of Staff, Captain Jeffrey Griffin. Like his commander, Captain Griffin emphasized to me how essential it is to have chaplains who can provide very competent religious support to the men and women of the Fleet. Next, we disembarked from the ship and walked over to the offices of the Commander Navy Region Japan where we met with Chaplain Mil Li, the Regional Chaplain. Chaplain Li, a chaplain of the Evangelical Covenant Church, also gave me a good overview of the vast territory for which he is responsible. His task of providing broad religious ministry support is a significant challenge. Yet, he impressed me as a committed and capable leader who is equal to the task. Our meetings for the day concluded with a meal with a number of senior chaplains who had expressed a desire to talk with me about their concerns and my perceptions. The topic of our conversation kept coming back to the question of the quality of chaplains. The expectation is that persons like me who fulfill the role of the Ecclesiastical Endorser will give recruit and access only the best clergy to serve as military chaplains. If I had to pinpoint one take-away from this last meeting it would be that the spiritual care of the men and women of the sea services is in the hands of some very competent Chaplain Corps officers. Tomorrow is a travel day when we will go from Yokosuka, Japan to Taipei, Taiwan for the House of Bishops meeting that begins on Wednesday. More to follow. +Jay

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