By Captain Brian Weigelt, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa/U.S. Sixth Fleet Force Chaplain
The Navy is now assigning chaplains to every destroyer in the fleet to support the establishment and sustainment of resiliency for surface warriors, an initiative that hits close to home for U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa / U.S. Sixth Fleet.
Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 60, based out of Rota, Spain, is forging ahead as one of the first DESRONs across the Navy to assign a chaplain to every ship in the command.
As a forward-deployed command, DESRON 60 has a robust operational tempo. These Forward-Deployed Naval Forces-Europe (FDNF-E) ships typically operate on patrol for four months, followed by four months in port, before returning to sea for another four-month patrol.
While chaplains have previously served aboard destroyers, they have not been ship’s company, and typically were only present during deployments. The current effort undertaken by DESRON 60 places a chaplain with a ship across the deployment cycle fosters deeper connections with the crew and command.
Cmdr. Scott A. Jones, commanding officer of Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71), acknowledges the value of this connection.
“Having a chaplain organically assigned to our ship has paid dividends in both readiness and resiliency,” said Jones. “As a member of the crew, our Chaplain both knows and is known across the deckplates.”
Jones also reflected on the emotional value that Chaplains bring to the ship’s crew.
“Unlike a temporarily assigned chaplain, the bonds that are forged between our shipmates is an incredible asset to my warfighting readiness,” said Jones. “I can fight tonight, and my crew will stand up alongside me and have the essential resources available they know and trust to elevate our warfighting ethos.”
Command Master Chief Jan Vadelspou, Command Master Chief of fellow Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78), enthusiastically supports the initiative to place chaplains on every destroyer.
“The confidentiality and the trust they instill are fundamental and beneficial to the Sailors’ overall health,” said Vadelspou. “Chaplains’ everyday engagement and one-on-one advising contribute to the success of mission and the success in Sailors’ professional and personal lives.”
In addition to serving the crews of these FDNF-E ships, Chaplains also provide an indispensable role in advising and assisting ships’ leaders.
“Senior leadership and triads around the fleet benefit from their counseling and guidance,” said Valelspou. “Numerous times, leaders need to interact and find an avenue to freely speak and express feelings with confidentiality. Chaplains provide that avenue for them.”
Chaplains and Religious Program Specialists collaborate with embedded mental health resources and shore-based support services to support Sailors and their families. This multi-layer, interdisciplinary approach to personal, family and mission readiness provides a solid foundation for continued mission success throughout the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations.
DESRON 60, responsible for the four FDNF-E ships, is headquartered at Naval Station Rota, and regularly maintains the highest-level of participation with regional allies and partners as well as supporting U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.
U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.