Chaplain’s Corner: You are your battle buddy’s keeper

Chaplain Maj. Degn, Fort BenningBy Chaplain (Maj.) Christopher W. Degn /

Ask, Care, Escort – the first letter of these three words form an easy-to-remember acronym, ACE. We Soldiers are given an ACE card that we carry around with us to remind us of our duty to look out for our battle buddy – to Ask him what’s going on in his life when we notice he’s down, to Care for him when he expresses risk to himself or others and to Escort him to get help.

Two lines found within Army creedal statements double-tap the ACE message, “I will never leave a fallen comrade,” (Warrior Ethos) and “I will always place their (my Soldiers) needs above my own.” (NCO Creed). To fail to take care of one’s battle buddy is the failure to truly Soldier.

In addition to this Army guidance, we can add two pertinent Old Testament stories that can serve as bookends to our duty to execute the ACE mission. The first is the story of brothers, Cain and Abel found within the book of Genesis, sons of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman created by God, according to the Bible.

Out of envy and wrath over Abel’s acceptance by God, Cain slayed his brother. God asked Cain where Abel was, to which he responded, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” In the second story found within the book of Samuel, we have two young warriors who are not related, but become “brothers” through a covenant they make with one another. Jonathan, who is next in line to become the king of Israel, has reason to hate David who is chosen by God and anointed by his prophet to replace Jonathan’s father, Saul, as king.

When we take these two Old Testament stories and parse them through the New Testament criteria of Jesus’ answer to God’s question to Cain, we find our duty quite obvious, both as Soldiers and human beings. When challenged by a lawyer once over which of all God’s commandments was the greatest, Jesus answered with, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind…and…Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39).

The great irony of the two stories above is that Cain and Abel, who were blood brothers, should have loved each other. They grew up together. There should have been a tight bond between them. Yet, in the second story, we find two young men, who were not related and who had sociopolitical reasons for being enemies, had grown to respect each other as warriors and became true “brothers.”

Jonathan and David epitomized the expression we use to describe the camaraderie and esprit de corps that should exist between Soldiers today – the nickname of “battle buddy,” (shortened often to “battle”) akin to the U.S. Air Force’s “wingman” and the U.S. Navy’s “shipmate.” To be a battle buddy is to practice toward your neighbor just about all of the seven Army Values, but most especially that of Selfless Service.

September 2016 is Suicide Prevention Month with the theme of “#BeThere.” So, apply these stories and “be there” for those on your left and right flanks – those Soldiers in your shop, those neighbors on your street, those classmates at school and those new acquaintances that God puts into your circle from time to time that He knows you of all people will have the compassion and courage to Ask about, Care for and Escort to help. We know the right answer to the question asked by God and the Army – “Why, Yes! I am my battle’s keeper!”

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