For the past six years, clinical professor Dr. Paul Beattie has led faculty and students from the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health’s Doctorate in Physical Therapy program and the School of Medicine to provide a unique training opportunity for Army and Air Force students at the Center. Located at Fort Jackson about 15 minutes from South Carolina’s main campus in Columbia (10 from the School of Medicine), the center houses the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School, the Air Force Chaplain Service Institute and the U.S. Naval Chaplaincy School and Center.
[Photo: Dr. Paul Beattie (far right) with co-instructors SFC Mike Jackson and SSGT Matt Lepak]
Within these three schools, which are coordinated under the overarching Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center, soldiers from a wide range of backgrounds, receive their military ministry training to become chaplains for the armed forces. Dr. Beattie serves as the primary point of contact for South Carolina and has designed the training to provide chaplain candidates with skills that will help them support wounded, injured and emotionally distraught individuals in dangerous battlefield environments.
This critical component of the curriculum takes place near the end of the program and is centered on a visit to the School of Medicine’s Gross Anatomy Lab, which is directed by clinical associate professor Dr. Erika Blanck, who also leads South Carolina’s Gift of Body Program. Within the lab, faculty and students from the Doctor of Physical Therapy program conduct interactive sessions—providing an opportunity for chaplain candidates to observe and feel cadaveric tissues as a way to familiarize themselves with wounds that they may encounter in the field. Sargent First Class Mike Jackson, an Army Special Forces (i.e., Green Beret) Medic from Fort Bragg, also offers a review and demonstration of basic combat life support techniques.
Immediately following the lab sessions, all of the participants meet in a large classroom to reflect on their experiences. Military combat veterans, including Dr. Beattie and Sargent Jackson, describe their battlefield experiences and illustrate the ways in which chaplains play key roles.
“Chaplain candidates who have participated in this event consistently rate it as one of the key experiences in their training,” says Dr. Beattie. “The actions of South Carolina’s graduate students, faculty and other volunteers who offer this important training illustrate one of many ways in which South Carolina helps provide a valuable service to our community and to our nation.”