The Commander’s Here

Hello, I’m Chaplain Michael Jaques, a chaplain with the Army Reserve and the VA. I’d like to share how I came to be so interested in the topic of powerlessness…


After my residency program, I went on orders as the project officer to help the 39th Brigade commander start a program to help his Veteran combat soldiers who were struggling with the effects of their combat experience in Iraq in 2004.


Unlike the active duty who have resources compiled on one installation, the guard soldiers are spread out across the state isolated. Also, during this time we got alerted that the unit was going back to Iraq.

And this notification opened up many of the wounds that had been hidden for a few years. Around this time, the commander shared a story. When he was in Iraq the first time. They had had about 35 members of the unit killed. He recalled one incident in which one soldier was blown up or shot, I don’t recall but everyone was scrambling wanting to save the man’s life. When he got there, there was some assurance, almost an exhale, the commander’s here, he’ll know what to do, he’ll make it OK.

He recalls holding him in his arms, unable to make everything OK. Of course, the soldier succumbed to his wounds. All this happened in 2006, 2007.

And then in 2008 we were all in Iraq, in Baghdad, on Victory Base complex my battalion was on Camp Slayer. The Chapel was on a man-made lake with glass windows. I could sit there peacefully admiring the view.

The battalion task force was about 750 people spread out in the region. I was also, the Chapel Officer in Charge (OIC) and Chaplain for Camp Slayer. There was no shortage of ministry. As a relatively young chaplain, I was more surprised about how much I was able to help. Throughout this three-year period experiencing all the phases of deployment, return, the ramp up and then being deployed. I was amazed at how much simply being heard, given a chance to express oneself, helped so many Soldiers.

Listening and being present. I found I didn’t have to know everything or have every answer. People figured it out when they could express and be heard. I realized now I’d gotten to stage three of the power development. In my ability to help people, I was exerting some form of power.

However, there were times when I was not able to help to make everything OK and this bothered me. Why was I able to have an effect so many times? but other times, there wasn’t anything I could do. And that was when my quest began, I wanted to find out how to resolve these feelings of powerlessness.


After returning from Iraq. I started a doctoral program. I knew immediately what my research project was going to be. I found out that many people struggled with these feelings and many people figured out how to resolve those feelings. And now I’m continuing my quest to give voice to an issue that is so often silent.


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