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Soldiers Forced to See Chaplain After Failing Army’s Spiritual Fitness Test

10 February 2011 General 9 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

by Chris Rodda

After failing a recently implemented mandatory Army-wide “Spiritual Fitness” test, soldiers are given the following message on their computer screens:

“Spiritual fitness is an area of possible difficulty for you. You may lack a sense of meaning and purpose in your life. At times, it is hard for you to make sense of what is happening to you and others around you. You may not feel connected to something larger than yourself. You may question your beliefs, principles, and values. Nevertheless, who you are and what you do matter. There are things to do to provide more meaning and purpose in your life. Improving your spiritual fitness should be an important goal. Change is possible, and the relevant self-development training modules will be helpful. If you need further help, please do not hesitate to seek out help from the people you care about and trust — strong people always do. Be patient in your development as it will take time to improve in this area. Still, persistence is key and you will improve here if you make this area a priority.”

This mandatory online test, called the Global Assessment Tool (GAT), is part of the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program, a program that puts spiritual fitness on par with physical and mental fitness.

Upon flunking the “Spiritual Fitness” section of the GAT, and receiving the above message telling them that “Change is possible” and that “you will improve here if you make this area a priority,” the spiritually deficient soldiers are directed to training modules to correct this problem with their “fitness.”

Nothing at this point in the CSF program tells the soldiers that the online training modules that follow the GAT test are not mandatory, so the soldiers naturally assume that the training modules they’re immediately directed to upon failing the test are also mandatory.

Ever since complaints about the GAT, which can only be described as an unconstitutional “religious test,” began to surface a few weeks ago, the Army has been bending over backward insisting that that spirituality doesn’t mean religion; that nothing in the CSF’s “Spiritual Fitness” training is mandatory; and that no soldier is being forced to do anything whatsoever if they flunk the test. But these claims from the Army are far from what the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) is hearing from soldiers who have failed the Spiritual Fitness section of the test.

Just read the following account from one soldier about what happened to the GAT-identified spiritually unfit solders in his unit.

Subject: I Am A “Spiritual Fitness Failure” ……Before I tell you, Mr. Weinstein and the MRFF of my total outrage at the U.S. Army for grading me as a “Spiritual Fitness failure”, I will tell you a few things about myself. My name is (name withheld) and I am an enlisted soldier with the rank of (rank withheld) in the United States Army stationed at Ft. (military installation withheld). I am in my early-to-mid twenties. I have been deployed downrange into Iraq and Afghanistan 6 times. I will deploy again for my 7th time very soon; to Afghanistan and more combat. All of my deployments have been very heavy combat assignments. I have been wounded 4 times including traumatic brain injury. I have earned the Combat Action Badge, the Bronze Star and multiple Purple Hearts. I have fought in hand-to hand- combat and killed and wounded more than a few “enemy combatants.” M religion? I was born a Methodist and guess I still am one. I’m not very religious but consider myself to be a Christian. I don’t go to chapel services that often although I go every now and then. I can’t stand the chaplains as most of them are trying to always get me and my friends to “commit to Christ” and be far more religious as well as they try to get more and more soldiers to get more and more soldiers to be the same type of “committed Christian”. I cannot count the number of times that these chaplains and my own chain of command has described this war we fight as a religious one against the Muslims and their “false, evil and violent” religion. I am a Christian and therefore neither an agnostic nor an atheist though many of my fellow soldiers are such. Now to the point. I, and everyone else who is enlisted in my company, was ORDERED by my Battalion Commander to take the GAT’s Spiritual Fitness Test not very long ago. Let me make this CLEAR, we were all ORDERD to take it. After we did, our unit’s First Sgt. individually asked us all how we did on the test. There was NO “anonymity” at all. None of us were ever told that we did NOT have to take this Spiritual Fitness Test nor that we did NOT have to tell our FIrst Sgt. what our results were. A bunch of us “failed” the SFT and when we told that to our First Sgt., per his disclosure order, he further ordered us to make immediate appointments with the chaplains so that we would not “kill ourselves on his watch”. None of us wanted to do it but we were scared. None of us wanted to get in the shits with our First Sgt. who can and will make life miserable for anyone who might have said no to him. They keep saying that this is all to stop us soldiers from killing ourselves but THIS degrading SFT “failure” only makes it worse. Two of my battle buddies who I KNOW are thinking of ending it all were a million times worse off after failing this SFT and being called a “spiritual failure” and then ordered to go see the chaplains. I felt like a total coward for not standing up to my First Sgt. but I did what he told me to do. I was scared to tell him no. So I went to see the chaplain. When this chaplain told me that I failed the SFT because it was “Jesus’ way of personally knocking on my door as an invitation for me to come to Him as a born again ‘REAL’ Christian” so that I could be saved and not burn forever in Hell for rejecting him, I thought of 3 things. First, I thought of the fact that I was already born a Christian and did not need to be born again. Second, I thought of my battle buddy (name and rank withheld) who took a bullet for me in his face during the Battle of (name of Iraqi battle withheld) and that he was the same kind of Christian as me and this chaplain is telling me that my battle buddy (name and rank withheld) is burning in hell for all time. Third, I thought how I wanted to blow that fucking chaplain’s head right off. Thank you, Mr. Weinstein and MRFF for listening and standing up. A bunch of us saw you on MSNBC. We also read about the enlisted guy at Ft. Bragg. Please tell Sgt. Griffith at Fort Bragg that he speaks for many of us who can’t handle the consequences if we spoke out. We have all read the letter you sent to tell the Army to stop this Spiritual Fitness Test. It cheered us up alot because that making us take that test is WRONG and using it to send us to the chaplains against our will is also WRONG. Please tell your lawyers at that big law firm company not to forget about those of us who want to speak up and thank them all but cannot. (Name, rank, combat MOS, military unit, military installation withheld)

Original post: Soldiers Forced to See Chaplain After Failing Army’s Spiritual Fitness Test

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9 Comments »

  1. It is absolutely wrong to make the military go through this kind of training – the politicians are always talking about the money we waste, well who is paying for this test? The taxpayers! This is wasted money. And it is 100% wrong for the chaplains to be telling the soldiers that this is a war against Islam – its hard to believe, but the spirit of the crusades are alive in this country. This is what we’ve spent $3trillion + on?

  2. This is scary business that the military would have an “army for christ”. What the hell is going on with the military. We’re fighting a “religious war”? This is news to me, and to many others, I suspect. I myself am a non-theist, and this religious nonsense we have today is very scary in relation to our freedom of, and FROM, religion.

  3. I have worked as a mental health case manager and have somewhat of an understanding of the strengths-based approach to mental health. Spirituality is not the same as formal religion. It involves what people value in their heart! I personally believe that you must work out your own salvation. No one can do that for you! No one has been through all the same experiences in life as you have. Each person is a unique individual and must make their own choices in life. The God I believe in knows our beginning to our end and He is so awsome and merciful that words can not describe Him! I believe everyone has the right to make their own choices in life! However, it is important to recognize the consequences of the choices you make.

    I know military soldiers are taught to obey commands. It is the responsibility of those in authority to make proper decisions. Those decisions impact all soldiers under their command! It is essential that those in authority are properly instructed about the programs they are implementing! They may not be able to implement the program perfectly, but perhaps with feedback from the soldiers they can make the program better or discard it if it is not working! I am praying that God will enlighten the leadership and embrace each soldier, no matter how weary with his LOVE!

    I believe we must be consistent on the outside with what is in our heart and God can take anything, even the most negative thing, and turn it around for our good!

  4. I am so sad that some of our soldiers have to go through this ’cause it’s bad enough for them being away from there love ones and the kind of environment they have ,now this BS …..It’s scary ……

  5. I feel sorry for this soldier, but not because he was mistreated–he was not.

    This alarmist article is sadly written by a soldier who was screened for PTSD. He clearly has it, and needs mental health help. Pointing the finger at the mental health screening test is the only way he can cope. This test is NOT spiritual fitness. Is a mental health screening, and he clearly needed more assistance. I hope (pray) he gets it. Would you rather have soldiers suffer from mental illness or have them screened. These tests are established by MENTAL HEALTH OFFICIALS, not religious leaders.

    Having said that, chaplains ARE sometimes the first counselor a soldier. Chaplains are counslors, and they can be reprimanded for pushing their personal, religious agenda. This soldier could ask to see any counsleor–any mental health official. I know how intimidating a first sergeant can be…

    There are bunches of Christian Chaplains and only handful of other religions. Why? The other religious leaders don’t sign up (don’t care?) If people want more Moslems/Pagans/Baha’i/Shinto etc to be chaplains, then they need to encourage their religious leader to sign up. The military needs them. There is no phobia of them. Where are they?

    Christian chaplains do not counsel nor preach hate. I suggest that this soldier find a counselor who can help.

  6. wow. I am in shock! WTF is going on these days? I was there. I was in the army, I was in the war. I was so fed up and disgusted with the head-up-ass attitude around me, I left the US. 6 YEARS AGO!
    This has been turned into a religious war! GW Bush had personal talks with Jesus (or God, I forget)! This is the man that got us into this mess!
    SOLDIER- Remember one thing, if nothing else! You took an oath to stand up and fight for the Constitution! READ IT! UNDERSTAND IT! DEFEND IT! Apply it to your personal life too! This includes the FIRST Amendment! Freedom of religion! This is also freedom FROM religion! Tell your chain of command to take their ‘Spiritual Fitness’ crap and shove it!
    Anytime ANYONE refers to something ‘spiritual’, read: Christian. As Nancy said: “JUST SAY NO!”
    Thanks for serving, but learn to QUESTION EVERYTHING!

  7. What a horrible person cruiz is.

  8. I wonder if I as a follower of Asatru would fail this test….

  9. That “letter” is b.s. Seven deployments in the Army would work out to approximately 8 years of time deployed. With at least one year of dwell time in between each deployment, that means this “Soldier” has been in the service for approximately 16 years. Assuming he joind the service when he was 17 years old, he was 33 when he wrote this… NOT in his “early to mid-twenties”

    Regardless, what’s the problem here? Nobody was ordered to do anything! The mental health evaluation revealed they may benefit from speaking to a spiritual mentor… What’s so terrible about that? My mom thinks I might benefit from dating a nice, christian girl… Doesn’t mean I have to do it. “Chaplain” is a general, non-denomenation term. There are Jewish Chaplians, Muslim Chaplains, Buddhist Chaplians, etc…

    So again… what’s the problem with this totally fraudulant letter?

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