One former Marine can’t stay away

21 Sep 2006 | Pfc. Joseph D. Day

The chaplains assistant has many duties to the chaplain. According to the Geneva Convention chaplains are non combatants; it is the job of the religious program specialist to protect him by any means necessary.  Chaplains should have no doubt in their minds how their assistants will perform under pressure.

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Whitley, RP, 6th Marine Regiment, was a Marine and a Desert Storm veteran.  He took on the title and risk of being the chaplain’s right-hand man in 1997.

“This job has a lot to it,” said the Wichita, Kan., native.  “I am there for the Marines who need me not only as a person to talk to but as a leader.”

While Whiltey fills an administrative role in the chaplain’s office, the father of four boys has duties not many do.  He schedules events the chaplain attends and coordinates with other officers.

“One of the more difficult things I have to do is memorial services for Marines who
have fallen in battle or in garrison,” Whitley said. 

For these services, Whitley sets up the altar and well known display of a rifle with boots, helmet and dog tags commemorating a fallen Marine. He said it is hard for him to look at because he realizes the life in front of him has ended.

“The dog tags had to be right because they went to pay their respects to their fallen brother,” Whitley said.

The chaplain has to trust his RP to feel they can work together.  Their relationship is one of teamwork and friendship said Navy Commander Tim Overturf, chaplain, 6th Marine Regiment.

“He loves what he does,” Overturf said.  “He connects with the Marines on so many levels.  He is naturally a good leader and is experienced in many aspects of the job.”

When the chaplain can’t organize events himself, he often turns to his RP to help out.

“He is expected to train lay readers for services, do community relations work and coordinate the worships,” Overturf said.  “That is a lot of work for one man to do, but he always seems to do it without a problem.”

His experience in the Marine Corps gave him the work ethic he needed to help in his current job.

Whitley said it is an appropriate job for him, since he is a Christian.  He said it was the right thing for him to do, because he still gets to work with Marines, but is also fulfilling spiritually .

“To be a chaplain’s assistant it takes hard work and dedication,” Overturf said.  “I trust him with my life; I know he won’t let me down.”