Military Matters: Religious program specialist training
Military men and women at NAS Meridian attend several classes on base but there's only one where they will never touch an aircraft. It's a course where students learn how to become a religious program specialist, or an RP.
Students in the course learn about the different religions and recently received a visit from a Jewish chaplain who addressed the future RPs about the Jewish faith.
"We currently have 22 students. We normally have about 25 and we have a class once a quarter," said Khristopher Ebreo.
U.S. Navy sailors and Marines have different religious backgrounds and RPs work alongside the military chaplains to support those different faiths.
Rabbi Aaron Rozovsky is the first Jewish chaplain in the history of the Mississippi Army National Guard.
He says he visits NAS Meridian to teach RP students how to support Jewish service members and their families and how to be a good chaplain assistant.
"To show them the incredible amount of responsibility that they are going to have as an 18-, 19-, 20-year-old RP," said Rozovsky. "This is not an easy job and they deserve a lot of credit for taking on this responsibility. And as a chaplain, I'd like to be able to give them the instruction and tools to aid them with that."
Military chaplains are never armed so the RPs not only assist in religious duties but also serve as chaplain protection.
"i think it's a role that really can't be underscored. We take our role as non-combatants very seriously and they take their role as our protector very seriously," said Rozovsky. "And that's why they're trained as well as they are."
All Navy religious program specialists train at NAS Meridian.
"It's going to be a lot of work in ministering to the needs of Jewish Marines, Jewish sailors, coast guardsmen and women and their families so that they can have a full Jewish life while they're in the military," Rozovsky said.
Rozovsky says he has taught twice in Meridian and plans to return every other month to assist with the RP program.
The RP school was recently moved to NAS Meridian after being located at Fort Jackson, S. C., for about 10 years.