Archives for category: Religious Services

Story & Photo by MC2 Heather Seelbach

Sailors from the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSCSG) departed Port Klang, Malaysia, Sept. 8 after a scheduled four-day port visit.

During the port visit, Sailors volunteered in five community service projects (COMSERV) at local shelters and group homes.

“Projects like these can have a profound impact on how we are perceived by the Malaysian people,” said JCSCSG Commander Rear Adm. Craig Faller. “Simple acts of kindness now, can have affect long after we have sailed.”

During the COMSERV projects, Sailors from USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and USS Dewey (DDG 105) brought needed supplies and spent time entertaining and interacting with Malaysian locals.

“COMSERV projects are extremely important because it helps us to better understand the community that we’re in and it helps them to better understand us,” said Gas Turbine System Technician (Electrical) 3rd Class Glenna Rankin, a Mobile Bay Sailor who volunteered at Rumah Juara children’s home Sept. 6. “I think it’s a wonderful experience.”

Sailors also provided distinguished visitors with tours of the ship and hosted a reception for dignitaries and military officials from several countries.

JCSCSG has additional community outreach efforts slated for upcoming ports, in an effort to build and strengthen international relations.

“I think the most important thing about us getting out and helping the community is that you can see it in people’s faces.” said USS John C. Stennis Commanding Officer Capt. Ron Reis. “They are ecstatic. They have an opportunity to interface with our Sailors and that interaction is positive.”

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Story by MCSA Carla Ocampo
Photo by MC3 Dugan Flynn

While on deployment Sailors are deprived of many things, such as spending holidays at home and spending time with family, but one thing Sailors will not have to miss this deployment is Catholic mass. Last week Sailors welcomed the newest addition to the Stennis religious ministries’ team, a Catholic chaplain.

Lt. Jose Bautista Rojas, Stennis’ first Catholic priest in more than two years, said he’s excited about working with Sailors for the first time in his career.

“I’m ecstatic, this is my first tour with the Navy and I can’t wait to get to know everybody,” said Bautista Rojas. “Serving those who serve gives me joy.”

Bautista Rojas joined the Navy in 2006 to pledge his service to those he looks up to most, military servicemembers.

Bautista Rojas’ main mission is to help Sailors maintain combat readiness and help them deal with stress they may have because of work or issues with their family.

“There are three important factors in our lives: physical condition, intellectual fitness, and spiritual fitness,” said Bautista Rojas. “They work together like a stool, you remove one leg and you’ll fall. I will work earnestly to provide spiritual guidance to those who seek it so they can continue on working and being productive Sailors.”

Sailors are excited to have a Catholic priest aboard to help them maintain their spiritual health while they’re away from home.

“Since I don’t have the comfort of my family or my parish priest back home, having a priest aboard Stennis reminds me that I have someone that I can knock on their door and they’ll be there for me without judging me,” said Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 3rd Class (AW/SW) Jose Jaen.

Having a chaplain aboard who can relate to Sailors religion of choice plays a key role in morale, but with the shortage of Catholic priests in the Navy it is difficult to have one at every command.

“There are very few Catholic chaplains in the Navy and we have to serve with Marines and the Coast Guard as well,” said Bautista Rojas.

Because of the shortage of priests, Bautista Rojas has never worked with Sailors, but he relishes the opportunity to work with more than 6,000 of them.

“I have orders to the Stennis, but I’m also here to provide support to the strike group,” said Bautista Rojas.”

The Navy prides itself on the diversity of its forces, yet diversity is not limited to race or gender; it includes religion as well and with Bautista-Rojas’ arrival Sailors now have more religious options to help them through the struggles deployment may bring.


Story by MC2 Heather Seelbach
Photo by MC3 Benjamin Crossley

USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) laid to rest the remains of 30 military veterans and three spouses during a burial at sea ceremony Aug. 1 while conducting operations in the Pacific Ocean.

Under the direction of Commanding Officer Capt. Ronald Reis and command Chaplain Cmdr. Michael Greenwalt, Stennis Sailors committed the cremains with full military honors, including a 21-gun salute.

Many of the 33 honored were veterans of foreign wars, including several who served in World War II, Vietnam and Korea.

Cryptologic Technician (Maintenance) 2nd Class Peter Aguirre, an urn bearer for the ceremony, said he was honored to participate in his first burial at sea.

“It’s a part of our Naval heritage to conduct burials at sea,” said Aguirre. “Also, it’s part of the human experience, part of life.”

The families of those honored will be presented with a letter from the captain, a chart listing the latitude and longitude of where the remains were committed, and photographs of the ceremony.

The assistant leading petty officer for command religious ministries department, Religious Programs Specialist 1st Class Ian Wakefield, considers it fulfilling to participate in the time-honored tradition of burial at sea.

“This is the final wish that veterans have given to the United States Government,” said Wakefield. “It is a very historic Navy tradition to bury the dead at sea, so for us to be able to partake in it is very important.”

Many who participated said the ceremony was a meaningful way to honor veterans while participating in one of the Navy’s most solemn traditions.

“Their struggle in life is over, but ours continues,” said Aguirre. “It just reminds us of the brevity of life and how we need to take it seriously and appreciate it for what it is.”

The participation of Stennis’ crew in the burial at sea played a crucial role in fulfilling the obligation to pay tribute to our nation’s heroes.

Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kathleen O’Keefe
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate

Tucked away in 03-118-10-L is Stennis’ Learning Media Resource Center (LMRC), a relaxing retreat for Sailors looking for a little down time.

The LMRC offers a settled atmosphere with ready access to comfortable chairs, dozens of books and computers.

“I love this place,” said Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Jaessica Hughes. “It’s so calm and quiet there. I can study or just write my family.”

One room in the LMRC houses the ship’s library. The shelves are packed with books ranging from graphic novels to naval history, and with more than 100 Navy literature titles, the library can help Sailors prepare for advancement exams even when the internet is not available.

“Studying in the library is a lot better than studying in a reactor space,” said Machinist Mate 3rd Class Marcus Andrade. “I can study my rate there and not be disturbed.”

The library offers more than 800 titles and receives new books on a regular basis. Some books can be checked out while others are available for Sailors to keep.

“There is a lot to choose from and you’d be surprised how many different kinds of book they have,” said Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Chad Burks. “There’s something for everyone.”

Nestled next to the library is the ship’s computer lab where Sailors can access email and internet using one of the many available computers.

According to Religious Program Specialist Seaman Rodney Talley, one of a number of Sailors who provide customer service at the LMRC, most of the crew members who visit each day are looking to connect with loved ones back home.

“I don’t get to use the computer in my space a lot,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) Airman Charmetia Coble. “In the library I have some personal space to write family and use the internet.”

In addition to the library and computer lab, there is a small lounge area where Sailors can relax on overstuffed couches and play video games on the flat screen televisions, watch DVDs or just sit and read a book.

“People want to come here and communicate with their families, unwind a little bit and have some fun,” said Tally. “Sometimes people want to be serious and get some studying done. This is a peaceful place that helps Sailors meet their personal and professional goals.”

The LMRC is open from 0900 to 1800 and 2000 to 0000 Monday through Saturday. It is also open from 1300 to 1800 and 2000 to 0000 on Sundays.

Stennis Chaplain Lt. Brian Kimball performs an invocation at a burial at sea aboard Stennis Feb. 16. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Walter Wayman.)

Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Heather Seelbach

Stennis Chaplain Lt. Brian Kimball gave crew members divine insight and leadership for two years, but left active-duty on Wednesday to become a Navy reservist and civilian pastor at the First Baptist Church in Sultan, Wash.

Sailors who worked with Kimball say they will miss his easygoing personality and positive outlook on life.

“Chaplain Kimball is a positive and upbeat person who brings joy to those around him,” said Religious Programs Specialist 3rd Class Jason Marcotte. “Every time I saw him, he was smiling, and it made me smile.”
Kimball was known to his co-workers as a fan of science fiction, particularly Star Wars and Star Trek.

Senior Chief Religious Programs Specialist (SW/AW/FMF) David Walsworth said that the popular Star Wars phrase, ‘the force is strong with this one’, is especially fitting for Kimball.

Kimball was a mobilized reservist in December 2002 and requested to go to a Marine infantry battalion to serve in combat, and in 2004, he served in 1st Marine Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“It was rewarding to be given the opportunity and say yes to the call,” said Kimball.

Following his combat tour, Kimball wrote a thesis on post-traumatic stress disorder for his Doctorate of Ministry while attending Midwestern Baptist Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

“I earned my doctorate by helping people connect with their own experience of overcoming stress,” said Kimball.

In addition to ministering to Sailors during Stennis’ 2009 Western Pacific deployment, Kimball provided counseling following the tragic loss of a Sailor in Singapore.

Kimball ministered, counseled and advised many Sailors during his time aboard Stennis, including those who work with him.

“He can listen and give good advice on personal issues, but he can also be very professional,” said Religious Programs Specialist 2nd Class Ian Wakefield. “It’s a great balance.”

His duties included providing ministry for Casualty Assistance Call Office (CACO) calls, which entailed notifying Sailors who experienced a death in the family, and he also conducted burials-at-sea.

Kimball conducted two weddings for Stennis Sailors, one of which led Kimball to the town of Sultan, Wash.

“I drove through Sultan and fell in love with the town, contacted the church, and they eventually asked me to be their next pastor,” said Kimball. “I’m really looking forward to moving to Sultan to be a pastor of the First Baptist Church.”

Kimball said his nine years in the Navy provided him with a wealth of knowledge, and many friends and memories; he leaves active duty with no regrets.

“There’s a certain element to this that I will miss, but every time I hear the national anthem, I’ll be able to have a great deal of pride knowing that I’ve done something that very few have ever done for their nation,” said Kimball. “I’ve served in combat and I’ve served at sea. I can certainly say with great peace that I’ve done my part.”

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