Wednesday, January 07, 2009


It's wonderful being home! Last night I had my parents up to the Jesuit Community where I live so they could come to "preprandials" (aka, "Haustus" or just "drinks") and dinner with my Jesuit confreres. My Community [hmmm -- sounds like a desktop item on a Windows computer, doesn't it?] is composed of extremely brilliant, and very holy men. . . and me.

I've really missed being in their company.

Now, while it's true that I've been accused of having "more degrees than a rectal thermometer" by a now-former friend (and I suppose he might have had a point, given my undergraduate double major in music and biology; my graduate degree in philosophy; my graduate degree in immunology; my graduate degree in divinity; my graduate degree in theology; my terminal degree in molecular neurobiology; and my postdoc in molecular virology), I like to think I just have more education "than ought to be allowed" (to steal a phrase I love from J.K. Rowling).

These guys I live with may not have gotten all the education I've suffered through, but that's simply because they were bright enough to be able to get hired and then hold down *a job*.

They are the smart ones.

I just kept moving from one school to another, collecting one degree after another, hoping.

It's now come to my attention that perhaps I'm doing that again in the Army. I've actually completed quite a number of Army online courses since I got access to them on 29NOV06. Most recently, I couldn't wait to get home so that I could finally finish Reserve Component Phase 01 of Infantryman BNCOC (pronounced "B-NOC"; Basic Non-Commissioned Officer Course), which I'd started this past October.

Now, as a Chaplain, I'm non-combatant, so there's no real *need* for me to be taking a course like this. At the very least, I'm an Officer, and this is a course for Enlisted Soldiers. Moreover, I have no need or desire to become "Rambo" -- I'm NOT an Infantryman, and do not want to be one!

I joined the Army precisely because I was to be a non-combatant; one of my biggest concerns as I was discerning this refinement to my vocation was whether there would be subtle but very real pressure for me to turn into a combatant should things get ugly, God forbid. I believe that the Geneva Conventions are a good thing -- even if our enemies happen not to respect them, why should *they* determine *our* values and actions? -- and believe further that it's really, really bad juju for me as a Chaplain to be trying to kill anyone for any reason.

A friend of mine who goes to a lot of Al-Anon meetings told me that she'd consider any use of automatic (or other) weapons on my part to be what she would call a huge Al-Anon "slip."

So I harbor no delusions of being or ever becoming a combatant.

I just want to learn what everybody else in the Army, who's ever been through Basic Combat Training ("boot camp") and Advanced Individual Training, or a Basic Officer Leadership Course in any Branch other than the Chaplaincy, already knows. I hate being in a group of people knowing that everyone else knows things -- experientially -- that I do not know. At the very least, I'd probably better be able to relate to the Soldiers I'm supposed to be serving as Chaplain.

Hence my desire to learn basic Army tactics, techniques, and procedures. For almost the whole time I've been in the Army now, I've been trying to get someone to let me sign up for the Reserve Component, Phase 01 of the Maneuver Captains Career Course -- an online course, so it wouldn't cost the Army anything -- but to no avail. Seems pretty dumb to me.

So, that being the case, I've been doing what I can to learn as much as I can in as short a time as possible. Before I went to the Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course (CH-BOLC) in summer 2007, I completed the following Army online courses:


I'd wanted to learn about the Chaplaincy, but there were no courses available online, so I did all of the Chaplain Assistant courses. I knew I wouldn't want to ask a Chaplain Assistant to do something (other than bear arms) I wasn't willing to do. I would definitely insist that any Chaplain Assistant who worked with me would at least be working on those online courses (SFC McG completed them long ago, of course), so I have made sure I've done them all. (As an educator myself, I'd certainly suggest some changes to the design and content of those modules!)

I also did the Quartermaster Officer Advanced Course (PH 1) because I was in a Quartermaster unit, and all the other Officers in it knew Quartermaster things. Even though the modules in many cases were unbelievably outdated, being that this was the "Advanced Course," it nevertheless proved to be quite a challenge for me.

Since CH-BOLC, I've now completed the following online courses:


(Actually, the Combat Medical Ministry Course was in-residence at Fort Sam Houston, rather than being an online course. I loved the course, not least for the fact that we met in the "veterinary microbiology" classroom, and I felt right at home.... And for whatever it's worth, the CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, high-yield Explosives) courses are by far the most challenging, well-designed, and worthwhile online Army courses I've completed to date. Good on ya, to whomever designed them!)

So, I've been trying to learn as much as I can, which now that I think about it, is pretty much in line with what the rest of my life has been like until now....

I guess I just do love learning!

Since I couldn't (yet) get into the Maneuver Captains Career Course, I decided to attempt the Infantryman BNCOC. I banged out the first thirteen modules in a couple of weeks' time this past fall, here Down Range. But to finish it up, I've needed the military map "Tenino" -- which every Soldier who's ever taken a Land Navigation course from the Army knows. However, it never showed up from the folks who oversee Army online coursework, much to my annoyance. LTC C, the BC (Battalion Commander) of the Bronco Battation, ROTC, came to my rescue, and graciously sent me one. It arrived quite literally as I was going to the airport to begin my journey home on leave.

I was ecstatic.

Unfortunately for me, I neglected to bring along the plastic protractor which one uses to measure distances and azimuths (angles) on the map. Rats! This meant that I was unable to work on this stuff while I had hours and hours and hours to kill while on the sojourn back to the States. However, once I got home, in rooting around in the couple of boxes which didn't make it into storage when I moved out last summer, I found a protractor, and was able to finish the last two of the fifteen course modules, "Map Reading Practical Exercise" and "Map Reading Assessment."

Now that I've finished Infantryman BNCOC, Ph 1, I've started into FIELD ARTILLERY OFFICER BRANCH ORIENTATION CRS, which has 49 modules, the most ever I've attempted as part of a single course. If the Army won't let me do the MCCC online, I'll just settle for this, for the moment at least. My Dad was a FA Officer in the 60s, so there's a nice symmetry there. Or something.

I eagerly sent the Infantryman BNCOC Ph 1 Certificate of Completion to my supervisor Down Range, since he's readying my Officer Evaluation Report in anticipation of his moving elsewhere in the near future. (Now, I've been waiting for six months for my OER from the unit I came to Iraq from, which is holding up my OER from the folks I've been working for, who are leaving soon. This has been very frustrating, to say the least! But, hope springs eternal, so I've proceeded with getting everything else together for this latest OER, and one of those items was finishing this online course.) I was really, really glad to be done with the course, and wanted to make sure its completion would be noted in my OER.

My supervisor wrote me back, using a humongous, bold font, saying, "Professor,
Don't you e-mail again concerning work or I will fire you."

I wrote him back: "Promise, Sir?"

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim Meier, SJ

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Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you are home. The basic infantryman training did make me chuckle... more degrees than...- clearly your sense of humor has remained in tact. Any chance you will attend the SERRA retreat in the coming week? All the best, Jim Prunty

CAB said...

Thanks for the joke and loved the description of the acquired degrees and army training course completion. Warm regards, CAB

Anonymous said...

May I suggest S.E.R.E. school at Ft. Rucker, since it seems you like a challenge. 21 days of fun! And yes, Chaplains come through before. Just get in on ATARRS.

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