Fort Jackson makes Navy history

From his office window at Newport, R.I., Capt. Michael Langston could see the Narragansett River. It seemed like a fitting location for the Navy's chaplain school.

Now that school is at Fort Jackson, and Langston can't see any water from his window. Instead, he's treated to a view of the Columbia skyline.

"We're hoping to see a battleship at Lake Murray if we can figure out how to get it up the tributaries," Langston joked.

Water or not, Langston and the Navy chaplain school are at land-locked Fort Jackson. It's a historic move that was celebrated Friday when the Navy graduated its first class of chaplains from the Army post.

The Navy unit, called the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center, was moved to Fort Jackson as a recommendation of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

Commonly referred to as BRAC, the panel said the Navy and Air Force chaplain schools should be co-located at Fort Jackson, home to the Army's school, to foster closer cooperation among the three chaplain corps, and share instruction and training.

Among the newly minted chaplains was Ensign Jeremy McIntyre, 35, of Columbia.

McIntyre, who studied at Columbia International University, said he was still waiting to find out where he'll be stationed next.

A 14-year Navy veteran, McIntyre was an aviation technician aboard the carrier USS Enterprise when terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11.

While watching the ship's chaplains minister to the crew, McIntyre said, "I felt God tap me on the shoulder. This is just something I have to do."

Lt. j.g. Janet Clarke, 39, of Dacula, Ga., is returning to military service after a 17-year break. She joined out of high school, served as a storekeeper aboard the destroyer USS Cape Cod, was discharged in 1989 and went home to raise a family.

The mother of four boys, including one who's in the Army and deployed to Afghanistan, Clarke rejoined the Navy in 2006.

"It's like getting back on a bike," Clarke said about the time it took to re-adapt to the military life. "I hope to reach out to whoever needs care and comfort."

The Navy graduated its last chaplain class at the Rhode Island base in August and headed to the Columbia base, setting up a temporary school at the Naval Reserve Center.

Last month, the Air Force closed its school at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., and it has moved personnel to the Army post. The Air Force's first class of about 30 is slated to graduate in February.

The Navy and Air Force chaplain schools will be moving into a new, $11.6 million facility. It's expected to be finished around Nov. 30, officials said.

Friday's ceremony included Navy traditions such as the ringing of the ship bell and the shrill sound of a boatswain's pipe, which signaled the arrival and departure of the official party.

And, of course, the new chaplains were wearing Navy blue dress uniforms and white hats.

The first class, which included five women, will head off to minister and offer spiritual guidance to members of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

The chaplain schools weren't the only recommendation of the BRAC panel's list. It also mandated that the Army's 81st Regional Readiness Command be moved to Fort Jackson from Birmingham, Ala., and it called for the Army to merge its three drill sergeant schools at Fort Jackson. Both of those recommendations have been met.

Overall, the new missions mean about 600 new jobs for Fort Jackson, the Army's largest basic training center.