USS Jason Dunham Hosts Navy Chaplain

USS Jason Dunham Hosts Navy Chaplain

A Navy chaplain visited guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) on Ash Wednesday to provide religious services and visit crew members.

Lt. Peter Ott, a chaplain assigned to amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47), commenced observance of the 40-day season of Lent by offering religious services and counseling as part of a U.S. 5th Fleet effort to ensure all ships operating in the area have access to religious services.

“The Navy cares about Sailors’ well-being and their right and ability to exercise their religious beliefs,” Ott said. “I’m here to help facilitate that the best I can.”

U.S. guided-missile destroyers often do not have chaplains permanently stationed on board and rely on command lay leaders to perform worship services. Lay leaders are volunteers appointed by the commanding officer who are trained by chaplains to serve the needs of a particular religious faith group. Lay leaders may conduct religious services, but may not exercise specific activities usually reserved for ordained clergy.

Ott said lay leaders are often prohibited from performing sacraments or offering counseling to crewmembers but still do a terrific service for their command.

 “There’s not much difference between a chaplain and a lay leader, spiritually speaking,” said Ott. “The main thing I bring to the table that a lay leader cannot is confidentiality. A Sailor can walk into my office, talk about personal issues without it becoming a command issue and leave with a weight lifted off their shoulders.”

Quartermaster 2nd Class Johnathan Restrepo, USS Jason Dunham’s Protestant lay leader, said the Chaplain brings a lot more than counseling abilities and confidentiality.

 “Chaplains have different personalities and backgrounds they bring with them,” Restrepo said. “I think the crew gets used to the way the lay leader does things, but having a chaplain on board can make worship a little more exciting and feel like you’re going to church back home.”

Restrepo also thinks having a chaplain on board boosts morale by creating an atmosphere of trust and comfort.

 “Even non-religious crewmembers go to him for advice or just to talk,” said Restrepo. “Just knowing he is there and his door is always open makes a big difference.”

USS Jason Dunham is deployed with the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group to the U.S. 5th Fleet areas of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom.

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Naval Today Staff, February 19, 2013; Image: US Navy

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