Skip to comments.Australian Padre helps deployed soldiers tackle life challenges (Former SAS soldier turns chaplain)
Posted on 12/22/2010 6:08:28 PM PST by naturalman1975
MULTI NATIONAL BASE TARIN KOT, Afghanistan A call to service can lead an individual in many directions but for Padre Ren McRae, it has taken him full circle: from a young man who served in the elite Special Air Service Regiment during the 1980s to an older, wiser man deployed to Afghanistan as an Australian Army chaplain.
After reaching the height of his military goals, McRae stepped away from the uniform to spend time as the pastor of a church and became both a husband and father. It is this unique blend of soldiering, ministerial, and civilian experience McRae brings to the soldiers he advises. McRae is the primary chaplain for Mentoring Task Force Two (MTF-2), which is responsible for the mentorship of the Afghan National Army.
A lot of my time is taken up by just being with the troops. It doesnt matter where they are. Getting to know them, talking, being there, being a presence for them, said Chaplain McRae. I learn what their problems are and what issues are affecting them, which has relevance to the morale and welfare of the troops.
At Multi National Base Tarin Kot, McRae can be found at his office or performing services at the chapel facility; however, he is often travelling to visit Australian troops at 10 forward operating bases throughout the Uruzgan province. He said each location has its own unique challenges and dynamics. It would be impossible to create a relationship with the soldiers if he did not get out there and live where they lived, ate what they ate, and become a part of their team.
Its critical that I get into their workspace and try to get to know them, because [soldiers] wont seek me out if Im a stranger, and they might slip through the cracks otherwise, said McRae, who is from Canberra.
Sometimes soldiers are reluctant to handle issues through their chain of command due to embarrassment or an inability to articulate what is bothering them. The chaplain has become an instrumental link in helping soldiers with issues that might have gone unresolved otherwise.
Often they will come to me because they arent sure where else to go. Ill ask a lot of questions to define what the issues are so that I can give them a bit of framework as to how they are going to manage it, said McRae. Its the same issue in life where once someone has talked through something, the burden is lifted and that can be all that is needed.
McRae also has at his disposal a list of contact names and information to help soldiers work through specific issues like finance or relationships. Occasionally a soldier may require additional help and will be referred to physiological support. McRae explained that chaplains are part of an overarching team that is in place to help with soldier welfare.
Faith can be an important avenue to handle stress, but McRae said that any belief system could be tapped to help a soldier through tough times.
The more a soldier has a defined belief system the more they draw upon the strength of that. Having something to believe in and a framework that allows your moral, ethical decisions to be made is always going to allow a soldier to deal with issues that come up, said McRae.
One of the unique aspects of being a military chaplain is interacting with soldiers of all faiths and finding a common ground to help them find peace and resolution, especially when dealing with larger issues of death and meaning.
If I was ministering to an Islamic soldier or a Jewish soldier, the same principals would apply without letting doctrine getting in the way. The chaplains position is one that recognizes were all human, were all frail, and the basis for a lot of our faith is very similar. The greatest strength that I have experienced as a chaplain is that the walls that divide us are generally not there in Defence, said McRae. Im a minister to everyone regardless of faith or no faith.
McRae said that he always knew that he would end up a chaplain. He had a calling when he was just 16-years-old, but it was a personal journey that developed over time and for good purpose.
This has been beyond anything I would have anticipated and not just because this is a new age and a new era for the Army but more a feeling of contentment, said McRae. This is where Im meant to be. Its a coming together of the heart and the head. It feels very comfortable being back in uniform. The last twenty years has prepared me well for this, and this is where I am.
There are approximately 150 chaplains serving in the reserve and active duty military.
Some of the best chaplains I have been around were once enlisted Soldiers.
SAS are insanely tough. Check out their record in Vietnam.
No one knows the hardships and problems faced by soldiers than a former one.