CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
When Easter approaches, chaplains stay busy organizing sermons, worship services and activities for the religious holiday. However, for those forward deployed, church service is just one of many responsibilities for a chaplain attached to a Marine unit.
The combat environment brings an array of stresses to those deployed, from feelings of uncertainty to issues back home. Marines and sailors with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) have someone they can turn to when they need help or just need an attentive ear.
“I'm not sure they're really looking for someone to tell them what to do, but maybe for someone who will listen and help them process what their priorities really are,” said Navy Lt. Mike Beasley, the chaplain for 9th ESB, 1st MLG (Fwd).
Beasley, a Corinth, Miss. native, has his work cut out for him at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan; the unit has Marines and sailors spread out among 25 locations across Helmand Province.
“Most sites have only four to five Marines from our unit, so we try to get out there and visit them,” said Beasley. “Most of them are isolated [from their original unit] at their sites, alone and unafraid.”
Beasley enlisted in the Navy in 1981 and after serving four years, left active duty and went to college. He began his first ministry in 1988 and received his master’s degree in 1991. After hearing about the military shortage of chaplains four years ago, Beasley obtained his commission and became a Navy chaplain.
“This is where I've wanted to be since before I actually became a chaplain,” said Beasley. “This is where I think chaplains can best come alongside Marines and sailors.”
Some occupational specialties in the battalion, like combat engineering, are tasked with missions that require larger groups of Marines. They work together frequently and usually have strong bonds with each other.
For other Marines in 9th ESB like bulk fuels specialists and water purification specialists, only a small handful of Marines are sent to a location in order to support different units. These Marines are typically separated from their parent command for months at a time.
Beasley said that 9th ESB Marines who are at various locations are often times taken in by the unit they support and made to feel like they are really part of the unit.
Having that feeling of strong brotherhood helps with stresses that arise, but as a chaplain, it is still important to offer services to those in need. For Beasley, getting to visit those Marines is one of the best parts of the job.
“I enjoy getting out of the office and going to the sites to see the Marines,” said Beasley. “It’s a lot more fun to be out there because there is a great opportunity to go from a casual conversation to something much deeper.”
Beasley said that many of the Marines are in some type of construction job fields and often are able to see the final product as a result of their efforts.
“Most people who get into construction like to see their work from start to finish,” said Beasley. “Out here, they can see their accomplishments.”
From the southern to the northern most points of 9th ESB’s area of operations, Beasley strives to continue reaching out to each and every Marine and sailor within his battalion. Whether through church, a phone call or a face-to-face visit, the chaplain continues to be the best influence he can be.
“I'm not too sure how much my involvement has been a blessing to the folks here, but being with them has been a great encouragement to me,” said Beasley.