CAMP GEIGER, N.C. -- Dealing with the physical and mental demands of a boot camp-like training environment during the 17-day field portion of Marine Combat Training (MCT) can be a stressful experience for many young Leathernecks.
Combined with the anxiety of being away from family and friends for an extended duration, the time entry-level Marines spend at MCT often tests their determination to continue on in the face of constant challenges.
Fortunately, Lt. Ray A. Bailey of Lincoln, Neb., is there to literally help keep their spirits up.
The MCT Battalion chaplain conducts field services at "Camp Devildog" regularly on Friday mornings and special religious holidays that apparently have a profound affect on his audience, commented 1st platoon, 3rd squad leader Sgt. Benjamin Collins.
"You can really tell the difference in the troops when the chaplain comes out here," said the Crosby, Texas, native. "Some of them are a little homesick and miss their families, but after they go to services and speak to the chaplain, they're doing fine and are ready to go back to training and getting the next mission accomplished."
Armed with his trusty guitar, the chaplain mixes music with a message to place Marines in a positive state of mind.
"Hopefully, I bring them encouragement," stated the self-taught musician who ironically, is serving with Leathernecks for the first time. "I find it very enjoyable coming out to the Marines and letting them know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that they can rely on me not only as a chaplain, but also as an officer who is willing to listen."
Apparently, Bailey's services help rekindle not only spirits but confidence as well.
"It's motivating because everyone believes we can make it here and having the chaplain coming out to see us gives us inspiration to keep pushing harder every day to satisfy our leaders," said PFC Michael A. Wilson, a student at MCT.
According to the Chillicothe, Ohio, native, the combination of scripture and song helps the Marines relax, as well as keep morale high. "The chaplain's services gives me the outlook that I can make it and everyone around me can make it through training," he added.
Not surprisingly many of the instructors at MCT recognize the importance of the profound role Bailey plays in the unit.
"I think it's great that the chaplain comes out to the field to talk to students and give them whatever guidance they may need to carry on," added Collins. "He let's them know that wherever they go in the Marine Corps, they can get spiritual help."