AL TAQQADUM, Iraq -- As the wounded Soldier’s condition worsened, the corpsman watching over him signaled to the chaplain. He came closer, and the Soldier saw the cross on his flak jacket. In a low mumbled voice, the Soldier told the chaplain to pray for him. Immediately, the Soldier’s condition improved, Oct. 27, in the back of a CH-46 Sea Knight during an urgent casualty evacuation mission.
Lieutenant j. g. Paul Greer, a chaplain with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, and the Marines and Sailors of the II Marine Expeditionary Force casevac team evacuated the wounded Soldier from Ramadi, Iraq.
Greer is currently serving at Al Taqqadum, Iraq, and considers himself a Greyhawk, with Marine Medium Transport Squadron 161.
The Greyhawks fly the aircraft and man the .50 cal machine guns as they soar into hostile environments, to transport wounded Iraqi civilians, Coalition and Iraqi forces, prisoners of war and to provide in-flight medical care as they fly to the best equipped hospitals in Iraq.
“Normally a squadron doesn’t rate a chaplain,” said Greer, a Greensboro, N.C, native. “This is a very unique mission. The Marines and Sailors here have come to count on me, and I’m really here to give them comfort.”
He said Brig. Gen. Robert E. Milstead Jr., the commanding general of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) saw the stress and the need and created a new ministry on the flightline.
Greer said he has a very proactive mission. He spends a great deal of time walking among and talking with the Greyhawks and corpsmen.
“I’m glad he’s here in case I ever need to talk with someone,” said Cpl. Andrew McNutt, a crew chief with HMM-161. “Some people might not be comfortable talking about what they saw or think to other Marines, but they can always go to the chaplain. He walks around and checks on everyone. It’s just good to have him around.”
Greer said he had instant creditability at HMM-161 because he had served as a firefighter and emergency medical technician for 14 years before joining the Navy.
“My years as a firefighter and EMT prepared me for the sights and stressors that accompany this mission,” said Greer. “I jumped at the chance to do God’s ministry with the element of being an EMT. This job fulfills two loves of mine at the same time.”
Lieutenant Col. Robert M. Brassaw, the commanding officer of HMM-161, said it’s very unique and beneficial to have a Greyhawk chaplain, especially with the trauma the Marines and corpsmen experience in the back of helicopter.
“He’s a visible presence on the flightline,” said Brassaw, a Cape Corral, Fla., native. “He’s very active with the Marines. After bad runs, he’ll debrief everyone.
“On Sundays, besides regular church services, he holds critical incident management classes. He has an all around positive impact here, and people know they can go to him to get something off their chest.”
Greer said he has admired Marines ever since he served at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., and got a first hand look on how Marines are created.
“They are on a constant work, sleep, work routine here,” said Greer. “The Marines built me a chapel out here, so I’m able to stay here 24 hours a day. I am here for the night and the day crew. When I joined, I knew this is what I wanted to do, serve with the Marines.”
On the flightline, Greer provides both a ministry of presence and pastoral care.
Due to the unpredictable nature of the casevac mission, the Greyhawks and corpsmen have to stay on the flightline for 12-hour shifts. Without Greer, many wouldn’t be able to attend church services.
“You never realize the impact you have as a chaplain,” said Greer. “One of the first things I did here was run out and pray as the helicopters began spinning for a casevac mission. Now, if I’m not there, everyone asks me where I was.”
Greer said it doesn’t matter to him whether he is seen as the presence of God or a good luck charm. But, he loves the chance to remind the Marines and corpsmen that God is with them every time they see him and every time he flies with them.
“The greatest value is to be able to share the experiences and lives of the Marines and Sailors,” said Greer. “The trust they place in me is extremely rewarding. Marines traditionally treat Navy chaplains and corpsmen with great esteem. Because of the nature of our mission, there is a tremendous amount of love between us and we all depend on each other.”
The Soldier who Greer flew with Oct. 27, had spinal injuries and internal trauma suffered from an improvised explosive device. He said whether it was the power of prayer, God interceding or the patient getting a renewed vigor to fight from the comfort of prayer, only God knows.
“We know God made a difference,” said Greer. “The ministry of presence of the Navy chaplain helps project the presence of God and comfort for the wounded when they need it most.”