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CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – As Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Adam Henderson begins his daily assignments here, he knows that most men his age are not making the same sacrifices he makes each day on a deployment.
Even most Marines are not doing what he does.
Henderson is a chaplain’s assistant with Regimental Combat Team 7 and is filling a position usually reserved for a senior Navy petty officer.
As noncombatants, chaplains in Marine Corps units have a Navy religious program specialist to protect them in combat and assist with administrative and logistic duties. Henderson, a 19-year-old native of Clark, S.D., was given the opportunity to support the regimental chaplain before the deployment when he interviewed to replace the previous religious program specialist.
Navy Chaplain (Cmdr.) Michael Williams, the chaplain with Regimental Combat Team 7, chose Henderson after interviewing six other Marines for the job.
“Henderson displayed the biggest heart, the most willingness to accept the confidentiality piece, and the best customer service,” said Williams, a Kodiak, Alaska, native.
Henderson said he loves protecting Williams, but his duties involve much more.
“He is responsible for funneling people to me who have religious, personal or marital needs,” the chaplain said. “He is a religious person, and that helps him understand that people have all types of needs.”
Henderson’s other tasks include staying in the base chapel all day for one week a month to facilitate the needs of those looking for a chaplain, coordinate travel arrangements for the chaplain, and work with the other religious specialists.
“He has helped the other religious specialists to learn the Marine Corps side,” Williams said. “He has taught them policies and procedures and who to talk to in order to get things done. He hasn’t abused his rank, but he has helped those of a higher rank become better at their job.”
His constant smile shows how much Henderson loves his job, and to him, it is about helping others.
“My favorite part of this deployment has been Christmas,” Henderson said. “I got to go out to the most rugged [forward operating bases and combat outposts] and help provide religious services. We even opened up some presents. It was a very rewarding time being out there and roughing it with them.”
Williams said Henderson’s desire to help others comes from his personality and upbringing.
“He’s really good at organization and computers,” Williams said. “The other thing that makes him really good is his heart. He understands there are people who need to be cared for, and he translates that into how he interacts with people.”
When he isn’t helping others, Henderson said, he loves to work out and stay physically fit. He also is preparing to become a noncommissioned officer, his next step in the Marine Corps.
“Everything I do is representing Commander Williams,” Henderson said. “I have to make sure I’m always saying the right things and doing the right things at the right times. It makes me a better Marine, because it makes me aware of my decision making and what I say, and I think it’s going to make me a better NCO when I get to that point.”