December 9, 2015 --
After several months of total silence, the chimes rang out briefly at the Chapel of the Good Shepherd, here, when Marine Corps Installations East’s command chaplain, Capt. Thomas Stewart, U.S. Navy, made his first visit to Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Dec. 8.
Stewart, based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, kicked off his visit with the base’s leadership and a full day of meetings, briefs and tours of the installation as well as a number of scheduled meet-and-greets.
According to Lt. Col. Nathaniel Robinson, executive officer, MCLB Albany, “the chaplain’s visit is more of an orientation to the base.”
Bob James, director, Operations and Training Division, MCLB Albany, who presented the command brief and facilitated a tour of the base commented on Stewart’s day aboard the installation.
“Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany lost our Religious Ministries Program Chaplain’s billet a couple of years ago,” James said. “That was a decision made at Headquarters Marine Corps.
“There are certainly needs on any installation, particularly with military people, that a Religious Ministry Program brings to the table in helping Marines with issues they may have,” he pointed out. “So, the chaplain came down to do a fact finding to see how, even though we have no chaplain permanently assigned here, he may be able to assist Marines (as well as) civilians in their religious needs.
During a tour of the chapel, Stewart discussed the purpose of his visit and what he and Col. James C. Carroll III, commanding officer, MCLB Albany, hoped the expected outcome would yield.
“I came to Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany to talk to Colonel Carroll, who desperately wants a chaplain here,” Stewart said. “The problem is we are short chaplains in the Navy. And, installations are usually at the bottom of the list in terms of filling some of those (billets).
“The numbers on this base are low compared to some others, so (it is difficult to) justify having a chaplain here,” he continued. “Barstow and Albany, both logistics bases, lost their billets a few years ago. And, as much as I would love to, and I know that Colonel Carroll wants one here, I don’t think (the base is) going to get that back.
“I’m here to discuss with Colonel Carroll an alternate plan,” the chaplain explained. “It’s not necessarily the best plan, but an alternate that we’re looking at, which is sending one of our chaplains from Camp Lejeune here once a month during the week. I’ve got two or three guys who we’re going to rotate.
“The general (Brig. Gen. Thomas D. Weidley, commander, MCIEAST,) has pretty much said, ‘Let’s do this at least short term and see how it goes,’” Stewart pointed out. “So, Colonel Carroll and I are just working out the details. (That said,) sending somebody is going to happen starting (at some point) in January (2016).
“We’re going to do our best to have a chaplain here for counseling,” he noted. “Maybe even do a Bible Study. One is a Catholic priest; maybe he’ll do Mass at the chapel and see how that goes. We’ll do the best we can and hopefully it will make a difference.”
Carroll and Stewart also discussed the possibility of a Wednesday night service to accommodate base parishioners.
“I think (this could work) in time, if we do it right; structure it right; get the people use to it and let them know that we’re here and we’re available,” the colonel said. “We’re close enough to the housing area here and folks don’t live too terribly far from here. I think that’s a good thing.