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SSC-Natick Press Release

U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
(508) 233-5340
amssb-opa@natick.army.mil

Date: February 13, 2003
No: 03-02

Containerized Chapel Helps Meet Religious Needs

NATICK, Mass. -- Worship will be easier for soldiers and the civilians who serve them at base camps after the Containerized Chapel goes into production this year.

The first complete Containerized Chapel prototype was built last year at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center here, and deployed in July to join a Force Provider base camp at Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan.

Two more chapels first used in Kosovo in 1999 are set to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and another chapel built at the Soldier Systems Center is waiting for the order to move out, according to Chap. (Maj.) John Wheatley, installation chaplain.

Eventually 40 of the portable chapels, developed by Product Manager-Force Sustainment Systems, will be positioned around the world and available for deployment for each Force Provider, the Army's deployable "tent city."

Many of them were initially the chapel component of Force Provider and are being refitted at an Army depot into stand-alone Containerized Chapels.

The idea came up after identifying unmet needs from past long-term stability and support missions in Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Albania and Macedonia. Religious support equipment was substandard and often incomplete, Wheatley said, and the chapel is a significant step up from the dining tents normally occupied for religious services.

"(The military) has been very good about supplying personnel. This confirms that the military is willing to put full research and development into the tools for religious support," Wheatley said. "It certainly allows many more options for the worship needs of all soldiers."

The Containerized Chapel is a package of equipment transported in a single steel ISO container that provides a multi-functional religious facility for a 550-person base camp. From the outside, the only thing setting it apart is the chaplain's flag flying near the entrance of the extended TEMPER tent.

Inside, chaplains have everything they need for religious support. Altars, lecterns, linens, candles, cross and crucifix, offering plates, communion sets and several versions of the Bible are available to support Protestant and Catholic Christians. Jewish and Islamic supplies include chaplain kits, yarmulkes, kufis, kimaras, prayer mats, Torahs and Korans.

"Demographics don't play a part in religious support. The military absolutely affirms the religious needs and diversity," Wheatley said. "That's a tribute to our country."

Worshippers and staff have other amenities. The climate-controlled chapel has a portable public address system, electronic keyboard, and if nobody's able to play a song, the music will play automatically from a digital hymnal programmed with hundreds of worship songs.

Each chapel has its own generator, electrical outlets, lights and seats for 100 people. Other support items are six months worth of consumables, such as communion wafers, a TV/VCR, microwave oven, coffee pot and folding tables.

Before the chapel arrived in Kandahar, troops gathered in the airport terminal for services and tolerated intermittent power outages and oppressive heat. Another advantage is the chapel's central location in the housing area. Wheatley said average weekly attendance rose from 90 to 150.

"This allows a place and a mechanism for the full dimension of worship, including religious education classes and fellowship," Wheatley said. "It's certainly a morale-booster. It becomes very visible and noticeable. Respect for the command is enhanced when they see such a clear support for these soldiers."

Among the activities held at the Containerized Chapel in Kandahar are Bible studies and choir practice to classes on Army values leadership and suicide prevention. Chaplains even planned a one-day retreat at the chapel.

For more information about SSC, please visit our website at http://www.natick.army.mil.


This page last updated on 13 February 2003.