Operation: Human Shield – chaplain combat training photos

Operation: Human Shield – chaplain combat training photos October 15, 2012

Chaplains from the California Army National Guard posted some pictures from ‘combat training’ on their Facebook page.

For those unfamiliar, chaplains in the US Military are non-combatants and do not carry a weapon. Each chaplain has a ‘chaplain’s assistant’, who may protect them in combat. However, modern chaplains are specifically ordered to stay off the front lines.

‘Leapfrogging’? More like, ‘Frogger’

It is definitely important to run towards cover / concealment. But chaplains are non-combatants, and should be nowhere near the front lines. I understand that in asymmetrical warfare, the ‘front line’ can be a fuzzy term. For me, this is not a realistic scenario being depicted though. At the very least, he’s running towards enemy fire (those kneeling green dummy soldiers).

Also, I feel for any chaplain’s assistant who may be caught in this scenario. If only one person has a weapon, it pretty much renders the ‘leapfrogging‘ tactic useless. If no other soldiers are on the battlefield, the two probably still should not resort to ‘Operation Human Shield’, or whatever this is called.

Doing it wrong

This poor guy is a holy mess. He needs to be aiming his weapon somewhere! He should probably be laying down suppressing fire. Perhaps even the ‘spray and pray’ technique? Assuming there are no enemies in his line of sight at that moment, he still needs to keep his weapon ready for one to pop up.

Chaplain’s Assistants function as important protectors. I’m pretty sure the non-combatant legal status is dependent on the Chaplains not carrying a weapon. I’ve interacted with many great chaplains and chaplains assistants (including this brave atheist chaplain’s assistant). I’m sure they won’t mind my gentle jabs here. They must realize how these pictures come off to the rest of us.

There are no chaplains in foxholes

While most chaplains are great, there are a vocal minority of evangelicals who specifically target non-Christians like myself. Multiple chaplains have told me, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”

This lead me to formulate the ‘no chaplains in foxholes‘ reply. The foxhole is a fighting position. Chaplains do not fight. If he somehow fell into a foxhole, it would actually just be a hole. It’s quite arrogant for a non-combatant to proselytize / harass atheists with that line, and my reply goes a good way to serve a slice of humble pie and to immediately stop the harassment.

Perhaps I’m just missing something about these pictures. It seems so ridiculous! Is it just me?

In case you missed it, the Facebook page for the California Army National Guard Chaplains also accidentally posted an older version of the Pledge of Allegiance (without ‘under god’). The comments were hilarious.

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  • Ryan Jean

    This poor guy is a holy mess.


    Perhaps even the ‘spray and pray’ technique?

    Well, well, Justin… Someone’s feeling a bit witty this morning! I suppose you were just in the mood to, ummm, “give ’em hell?” Against this level of sarcasm, I’m sure they don’t have a prayer…

    Okay, I’m done. I promise!

    I’m pretty sure the non-combatant legal status is dependent on the Chaplains not carrying a weapon.

    Yes and no. According to Wikipedia:

    The Geneva Conventions are silent on whether chaplains may bear arms. However, the Conventions do state (Protocol I, 8 June 1977, Art 43.2) that chaplains are noncombatants: they do not have the right to participate directly in hostilities.


    In recent years both the UK and US have required chaplains, but not medical personnel, to be unarmed in combat, although the US does not prohibit chaplains from earning marksmanship awards or participating in marksmanship competitions.


    Captured chaplains are not considered prisoners of war (Third Convention, 12 August 1949, Chapter IV Art 33) and must be returned to their home nation unless retained to minister to prisoners of war.

    I’d be willing to bet that the concern is that if you allow them to take up arms, you risk the other country stripping them of noncombatant status, not only in the initial hostility, but in regards to later concerns such as POW status, etc.

    • Justin Griffith

      Interestingly, somebody associated with the medical field (not sure of branch) told me they were officially ‘non-combatants’ but *required* to carry a weapon. I’m betting it’s mental health, but it really could be anything. I’ll check it out, it was somebody on my facebook wall about a half hour ago.

      • Kris Flory

        In Iraq 2008 our medics were required to carry an M9, some carried M4s if they wished. The same was true in Africa, M9s required when on QRF.

        I’ve never seen a chaplain touch a weapon.

    • Derf

      I need to correct wikipedia, it is incorrect on this one.

      Chaplains are prevented from even touching a weapon, they are prevented from participating in any marksmanship training or any other activities that involve handling weapons.

      Source is the chief of chaplains policy letter on chaplains handling weapons, which can be found on AKO in the RSOS section.

      – The other A* Chaplain Assistant

  • hexidecima

    One would think that chaplains would need no “assistants” or special protection if their god were real. It seems that they are depending on other humans, just like the rest of us.

    • Loqi

      Allow me to take a crack at playing Jesus’ advocate here. I’ll do my best to capture the spirit of the christian reply.

      *clears throat*

      Blah blah, do not test god, blah blah, works in mysterious ways.

      • F

        Helps those who help themselves (or who are being helped by someone else already), what what.

  • OTOH, it might be tempting to use a chaplain as a human shield.

    • Bob

      Nothing says “I have faith that the lord will protect me” like hugging a faceful of dirt.

      “Thank you, Lord, for this convenient dirt.”

      Shortly followed by “more dirt, Lord, more dirt!!”

      ps: On behalf of all civilians reading this could I request expansion of military acronyms?

  • Nothing says “I have faith that the lord will protect me” like hugging a faceful of dirt.

    Remember: a significant percentage of soldiers who got their asses blown away were praying at the time. God is apparently on the side of the heavy artillery.

  • F

    At the very least, he’s running towards enemy fire (those kneeling green dummy soldiers).

    Dude. They are green army men, and he’s got a lighter. They’re toast.

    He needs to be aiming his weapon somewhere!

    Right up his fifth point of contact, probably.

    If he somehow fell into a foxhole, it would actually just be a hole.

    For he is no fox.

    Is it just me?

    No, it’s that enemy VW Beetle, too.

    • Justin Griffith

      LOL’d multiple times.

      Well played. +1 ARPANET

  • Richard Simons

    To me, the idea of chaplains scuttling around on the front line has a touch of Monty Python about it. What are they supposed to do there?

    • Justin Griffith

      Ye Holy Hand Grenade?

  • joachim

    I like sites that show that show that atheists have no problem with killing.

    Of course, they never did, but somehow the idea got around they were some kind of antiwar nuts or something.

    As Nietzsche said, “You say a good cause sanctifieth even war? Nay, I say a good war sanctifieth any cause!”

  • joachim

    Ah, I see the courageous Atheist Military Hero is moderating comments. snicker