Monday, July 27, 2009

Land Nav

My team doing our land nav stuff as we walked through an old land mine field and grenade range.

A Few AMEX Pics

So in these pictures you see one of the leadership training problems we had to try to solve. There is also a picture of the weever that gave everyone the bruises, an MRE, and a pic of my buddy Crone and I as we wait to get back in the van to head back to Newport in our wet smelly digitals.

AMEX is done!! Two weeks until Annie and Bella!

Hello All,

AMEX is the field portion of our training here at Chaplain school. It is focused on the Green side of things (The Marines). The whole week that we were out in the field all we heard was a "Marine would experience this", and "this will help you know what they all go through." I won't lie, not all of AMEX was all that fun but overall I had a very good time.
The week began with the setting up of camp and the constant yells of our Gunnery Sergeant to go faster. I am pretty sure that no matter what speed we did things the yells to go faster would still be there. As soon as we go camp set up we tore into our first round of MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat). This was my first experience with MRE's and I had cheese omelet. Apparently it has the reputation of being one of the worst MRE's but I actually liked it. (At one time in the week I would eat the Country Chicken MRE, now this thing was terrible. I mean I can eat anything pretty much but WOW I was gagging trying to get this thing down.) After the MRE we headed out to the confidence course. These are various obstacles that are to be navigated in a certain way and I guess once done give you some confidence. Overall they weren't that physically demanding, but some of them (the weever) gave me some nasty bruises. I must say that I was impressed though with my fellow chaplains in my group and our class as a whole. I am 27 and sorta in shape, but the chaplain corps as a whole is a little older and maybe a little more pear shaped. This didn't stop anyone though, I remember looking at some of the obstacles and then at some of the other chaplains and just thinking NO WAY! but they did them all. Way to be class B09030!
On Tuesday we sat in a classroom and looked at powerpoint all day. Yes out in the field STILL LOOKING AT FREAKING POWER POINT. I know that I will see alot of powerpoint over my Navy career (apparently the Navy trains almost exclusively on powerpoint) but after 3 months straight of power point I hate the stuff.
On Wednesday we went to the leadership course. There we were split into teams and made to rotate between 17 problems that had to be navigated within a certain time frame, only using certain materials, and making sure to never touch the red (red is dead). Half of the problems were just over gravel and lacked the anxiety of real consequences for failing. The other half on the other hand were over water and if you failed you took a swim in full uniform. I TOOK A FEW SWIMS. It was great to see if you could come up with a plan, get your team to buy into it, and then execute, and to get a little beat up and wet.
On Thursday we woke up , broke down camp, and had breakfast. We then went back into the classroom to begin our land navigation training. We finally got out to the field to practice some of our new found knowledge around 1700. We were given the task of finding as many targets as we could until the exercise was called off. Our team set off right away and started making quick work of tracking down the various targets all over the base. Around 1900 it started to rain and at first it was a fun experience to trek around the woods in our gear looking for little markers pinned to some random tree, but soon the rain picked up and everything got soaked. After finding 10 targets (the closest other team found 7 targets and everyone else found 5 or less, so we kicked butt) we were all called back into the classroom around 2200. I thought that our day might be over and maybe some food would be on the horizon, they had let us eat breakfast but nothing after that, but it wasn't to be. After a brief lesson in night navigation we were paraded back out into the pouring rain which had been joined by a strong gusting wind. It was that kind of rain that is whipped by the wind right into your face with a little sting. So out to the night navigation course we went. Our class had 31 people at AMEX but the night NAV course could only hold about 6 people at a time. I was one of the first people to go and after I was done I had to sit on some bleachers and wait for everyone else to get done. I was soaked, getting rained on, and because of the wind I was freezing cold. I sat on that bleacher for an hour and a half.
Finally the word came from Gunnery Sergeant that we were going back. So we marched back over to the classroom and formed up outside. We only had to stand there outside the classroom for a few minuted but it felt like alot longer, I was tired of being in the rain and all of my skin felt the way your fingers get when you sit in the tub for too long. When we got in the classroom our class officer began with another class of instruction and another set of power points, it was 2am who can pay attention to power points at 2am? The whole thing was a ruse though, he quickly went through the power point and then revealed that there was pizza and chips and drinks in the room behind ours and sent a few guys to bring it in. We pigged out on cold pizza at 0230 while watching a documentary of Chesty Puller (a famous Marine General), what has my life turned into?
After the pizza they let us take a shower (first in five days) and sleep for a few hours in some bunk houses on base. When we awoke the next morning though we were told that we had to put our wet stuff from the night before back on in order to go back to Newport and form up for an award presentation. It wasn't that much fun to put those things back on and we all stunk something nasty. By 1700 on Friday though I was back in my room and AMEX was behind me.
The experience, as I stated earlier, was a good time. I wasn't sitting there the whole time thinking this is so much fun, but for the most part I felt like a little kid again playing in the woods in Mabank TX, getting dirty, stinky, and still pretending that I am a soldier in a war situation. I also learned that I might not be the toughest guy out there but I think that I can easily handled anything physical that the chaplaincy will ask of me. The hard part will be the time away from my family and the fact that I will be the person who will always have to be on point with my attitude and having a positive word to say. Prayerfully Annie, Bella, and I will rest upon the strength that Christ will provide, seeking to rest always upon the solid foundation of the cross.

God Bless
Joshua Earls

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Is this going to be what the Chaplaincy is like?

So this past week has been insane here at Chaplain School. We had 2 practicum projects due where we were to brief our XO (executive officer), and CO (commanding officer) about a religious concern situation, and then with our new Command Religious Program for the command. Then we had our final knowledge test before we go out to the field (what Navy instruction covers this situation, what are the basics of just war theory, what are the details of the Religious Offering Fund and what can be purchased with that money?) On and On the questions came, and I past by the skin of my teeth. Then we had a paper due on how we measure success. Yes give a thought out response to the question of how do we measure success. But now it is over and I am waiting to go out to the field with GYST (Gunnery Sergeant) on Monday. Chaplain School just roles on and on.
The difficult part about this week was not so much all the assignments and projects that we had to do, it was the experience in the practicums of briefing the XO and CO. Now we didn't really have an XO and CO in the class room but our Class Officer CH. Williams and CH. Crouterfield (the CH who will take over as the class officer for the next Chaplain class) acted as the CO and XO. The experience was not a fun one. We all got our butts handed to us. Class wide we are really hoping that their goal was to make it more difficult than anything we would probably encounter in the fleet, but they never said that was what they were doing. For the brief we would go up to the front of the class where the XO and CO would be seated. We would then bring up our powerpoint presentation and go to it, but after a short time we would be asked questions that were so specific about the programs we just learned about that often we would just be left with a dumb look on our face and reduced to muttering "Um, Um, well Um." I did ok but just because my presentation and answers to the questions weren't "that bad."
I don't mind getting my butt handed to me, it is just going to happen, but that doesn't mean that I like it. I want to be a good chaplain and yes that will always begin with my own spiritual life and being a reflection of Christ love to the sailors/marines that I come in contact with, but I am going to need to become an expert in alot of other things before I can say that I am excelling in my position as a Navy Chaplain.

Please pray that I won't be overwhelmed before I even begin. It is always easier to go back to what you are comfortable with and what you know.

God Bless
Joshua Earls

My Beautiful Daughter

This is a picture of my daughter Isabella when we were all in Boston last weekend.

Friday, July 10, 2009

How fast things come!

I am back in Boston with my wife and baby Isabella. Annie heard how much fun I had last week so she wanted to come see Boston for her self. It is late Friday night and both her and the baby are asleep and I am looking at old pictures on the computer. The reality of my current situation continues to sink in more and more with the passing of time but I still have a difficult time really coming to grips with the fact that I have left Lynchburg, my house on Handy St., my stupid cats, and my friends. For so long Annie and I have pushed, prayed, and dreamed about being blessed by God to serve as a Navy Chaplain (about 6 years), but now the time is here and everything has changed. I am very excited about the future ministry I have in the Navy and I wouldn't give it up for anything I just wish everything that I left in Lynchburg could be rolled in with what I am going to do in the Navy.
Cherish the present moments that you have (I know it sounds like I am writing a Hallmark card), even if they are difficult, because in the blink of an eye you will wake up and they will all be gone.
Prayerfully my ministry in the Navy will stand on the shoulders of giants in the Christian faith who have had a profound influence upon my life. I used to think that these people were mainly the big time, well known preachers and scholars (Piper, Spurgeon, Keller, Edwards, Owen and the like), but the influence I feel the most is from the faithful saints who have poured their love and time into my life. So to my wife (and as if you all didn't know this already, she is the most amazing women ever she makes being a husband and father very easy), my father (I am so blessed to only need to look to him to find a heroic example of what it means to be a faithful minister of the Word and one who is always pursuing holiness), to my mother (I hope that I can mimic her passion and strength), to my friends (I can't say enough about what you all have meant to me, the boys in Lynchburg your words of encouragement and challenging are ever present in my mind, to others I thank you for your constant prayers and support), and finally to those who have taken time to teach a young man who needs to learn so much (Dr. Smith that you for taking the time to sit down and answer the questions of a young historian and giving me the confidence that I can succeed)

God Bless To You All
Joshua Earls

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Well let me say a little to what has been going on here at Chaplain School over the past week or two. The days here have been very long, still, but I think that my butt is getting molded into the shape of my seat so the days don't feel as long. I only have a week and a half left in the Basic Chaplain Course and then it is on to AMEX and being out in the field for a week with GySgt Foster (I'm really excited about it, it will help to get dirty and do stuff that will make me feel like I am in the Navy, or I guess that part is the Marine part, so it will make me feel like I am serving with the Marines.)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, it has been hard to remain strong in my devotional life, but I have confidence in my great God and He will guide me through this time. To speak on that a little more it is surprising the things that God will use to awaken your spiritual fire again. I was reading a book that I picked up at the Gospel Coalition entitled Meet The Puritans. It is made up of brief overviews of the lives of more than 100 Puritan preachers. While reading I came across the story of Henry Scougal 1650-1678. I read his famous work The Work of God in the Soul of Man about 5 years ago and it had a profound impact upon my life (by the way if you haven't read this book you need to. It is a short book that you can read in a few days, so get it and read it). Reading this little bio on Scougal let the words and impact of The Life of God in the Soul of Man come flowing back to my mind and warmed my heart towards the things of Christ. About an hour latter I got an email that said a friend had left me a video message on facebook. It was Dakota Zook, a young college student who has been called to ministry who I had the priviladge of mentoring for about 3 months before he moved to Tennessee. In his message he just said that he was thinking about me and praying for me and my family. Just a simple message that I didn't expect was very helpful to raise my spirits. May God use them to make me desire Him more.

Finally to talk about this past weekend. I had the opportunity to go to Boston over the fourth. A friend from Chaplain school, Jason Burchell, and my long time best bud Joe Gahagan came with me. We had the best time, we went to a Redsox's game, we saw the fireworks over the Charles, and we went along the Freedom Trail. It was a great time, but it was a clear example of the impact that my slumping spiritual life has upon my daily life. The things of God are not as interesting to me, wrongly so, and my speech is not uplifting and it does not have any holy value. Instead of being an presence that would point my friends towards Christ, it just felt like I was along for the ride. If I can't be someone who points people towards Christ I don't think I can be a Chaplain.
Please be praying as I learn and lean upon Christ. Also please pray for my family as we are getting a little tired of not being settled and being apart from each other.

The picture attached is Joe and I as we try to decipher the Boston subway map.

God Bless
Joshua Earls