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Face of Defense: Soldier Helps to Meet Comrades’ Spiritual Needs

By Army Sgt. Eric Glassey
Regional Command South

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2013 – Army Sgt. Michelle McCullah lights a candle, adding its glow to the spectrum of color cast through the stained-glass windows into the chapel.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Sgt. Michelle McCullah lights a candle while developing chapel operating procedures at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 18, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Eric Glassey

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

McCullah is a chaplain assistant for Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, stationed out of Fort Carson, Colo., who is serving here with Regional Command South.

Her responsibilities are as diverse as the world’s religions as McCullah works with Army Chaplain (Capt.) Samuel Rico to provide spiritual ministry to the battalion.

“In this unit, as a chaplain, I have to be concerned for the spiritual needs of some 900 people in some form or another,” Rico said. “That’s a lot for one person. It helps having her keep me on track.”

McCullah takes being a chaplain assistant beyond simple administrative work by extending Rico’s ministry to the soldiers.

“She is an enthusiastic [noncommissioned officer] who always has soldiers’ care on her mind,” said Army Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Bill Harrison, 4th Infantry Division chaplain. “She goes around as a morale officer for the unit, lifting the spirits of the soldiers, which makes for an ideal chaplain assistant.”

McCullah also pitches in with other duty sections.

“A big part of [my job] is getting to know the soldiers that are in our unit,” she said. “I’ll go out and help other sections, whether it is helping with inventory or the mail,” she said. “Just communicating with them and getting to know them better, and making sure they are being taken care of. A big part of our job is focusing on soldiers’ morale and welfare.”

Interacting and ministering with the soldiers while providing knowledge about various Army resources is the highlight of her job, McCullah said.

“My favorite part about my job is taking care of soldiers when they come in for help,” she added. “For whatever reason they come in, whether it’s informing new soldiers about resources like Army Community Service or Better Opportunity for Single Soldiers when they were in-processing back at Fort Carson, or here just listening to them until the chaplain gets there.”

McCullah’s responsibilities will expand when her battalion assumes responsibility for Fraise Chapel here Oct. 1.

“I am very excited to take on the chapel,” she said. “I hope to mentor younger chaplain assistants, as well as [improve] my skills and duties.”

McCullah said her aspirations keep her focused on what’s important in her life.

“I want to own a house … so that I can take care of my family,” the Marysville, Calif., native said. “I know where I came from, and I want to do better for myself.” She added that she expects to finish her associate’s degree by the end of next year and eventually to earn a bachelor’s degree.


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