Wisconsin Guard names first Buddhist chaplain

By Staff Sgt. Megan Burnham, 112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, DVIDShub.net, July 11, 2013

FORT MCCOY, Wis. (USA) -- The Wisconsin Army National Guard welcomed its first Buddhist chaplain at a swearing in ceremony at Fort McCoy, Wis., July 10.

The new chaplain became one of only a handful of Buddhist chaplains in the U.S. Army.

Chap. (1st Lt.) Christopher Mohr swore the Oath of Membership in the United States Corps of Chaplains in front of the red arrow of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team during the brigade’s annual training at Fort McCoy.

Mohr joins the 32nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion to serve as the unit’s adviser to the battalion commander and provide morale, morals and ethics support to the soldiers.

He explained Buddhist teachings such as mindfulness, equanimity and service to others helped him in his personal life and how he interacts with other people.

“These things have been very useful to me in making sure that I can be a person who is of benefit to others and a person who can work with others to make sure that everybody’s needs, as best I can, be met,” said Mohr.

During his first two-weeks as a Buddhist chaplain in the Wisconsin Army National Guard, Mohr will hold nightly meditation training with a full-scale Buddhist service once a week.

Chaplain (Col.) Douglas Fleischfresser, the state command chaplain, is excited to have a new religion represented in the Wisconsin Army National Guard.

“I think it speaks for where we’re going in diversity and the need to have a diverse viewpoint in spirituality,” said Fleischfresser.

Army chaplains, regardless of the faith they represent, provide spiritual, ethical and moral guidance to all soldiers in need of assistance.

I think the chaplains are such a critical part of the unit,” said Maj. John Reiter, 32nd BTSB commander. “They are responsible for the [spiritual] care of the soldiers. With the emphasis on resiliency, it’s critical to the health of the battalion.”

Mohr became a Buddhist reverend after receiving his master of divinity degree from a seminary in California and being ordained into the faith.

Mohr’s roles as battalion chaplain are performing Buddhist services and providing opportunities for worship to other religions. There are approximately 30 soldiers who have identified themselves as Buddhists with others showing interest in the faith, said Fleischfresser.