USS MOMSEN, At Sea - A Navy chaplain assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) visited the guided-missile destroyer USS Momsen (DDG 92) via helicopter, July 1.
Cmdr. Daniel Mode held a religious service and counseling sessions as part of U.S. 7th Fleet's effort to ensure all ships operating in the area have access to religious services.
"Chaplains are here to care, facilitate, provide and advise," said Mode. "I am a firm believer that Sailors should have the ability to exercise their religious beliefs and my job is to help facilitate in any way possible."
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.
"The main difference between a chaplain and a lay leader is that a chaplain can offer confidentiality," said Mode. "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."
Mode said lay leaders are often prohibited from preaching or offering counseling to crewmembers but still do a terrific service for their command.
Cryptologic Technician (Technical) 2nd Class Stephen Bruce, a lay leader aboard Momsen, discussed how a chaplain brings a lot more than counseling abilities and confidentiality.
"Chaplains offer many services that lay leader are not permitted to provide," said Bruce. "These can include counseling services, confessionals, the administration of sacraments, and the teaching and interpretation of religious materials."
Bruce also believes that having a chaplain on board affects the mission readiness of the crew.
"Emotional and spiritual wellbeing are just as important to a successful mission as is physical health, therefore chaplain services are essential," said Bruce. "While lay leaders can certainly help to heighten crew morale, they cannot do this to the level of chaplains."
Mode said coming from a military family instilled a desire to give back to the military.
"I view my ministry as a way to give back to the Navy and I feel privileged to be able to give the same gift that I once received from Navy chaplains when I was growing up," said Mode. "I look forward to the next opportunity I will have to be able to visit another vessel and provide the same services that I was able to facilitate here today."
Momsen is on patrol with the George Washington Strike Group in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.