It's no secret that basic military training is extremely demanding. It will exhaust you in more ways than you thought possible, and teach you to extend your limits, both mentally and physically. But what about spiritually?
Spiritual wellness is one of the five pillars of wellness that support each of us. It doesn't mean that you have faith in one god or another. It doesn't mean that you spend every waking moment in prayer. It means you have purpose.
Spiritual wellness means that you're aware that there's something bigger than you, and you feel connected to it. Maybe it's faith in God, maybe it's a dedication to humanity, or maybe it's a belief in a cause. Whatever form it takes for you, in order to be a healthy, whole person, you have to watch out for your spiritual wellness. Especially in basic training.
Know Your Purpose
Part of maintaining that health is remembering why you joined the military in the first place. Are you looking to serve your country? Feed your family? What cause do you identify with, and how is your basic military training helping you to serve that cause?
It's important to go into basic training with a strong sense of purpose. Knowing your reasons will help you maintain your mental toughness and help keep stress at bay. But, sometimes, in the hustle and bustle, you lose sight of your reasons. That's where the Chaplain Corps comes in.
Before you leave for basic, take just a couple minutes and right down the real reasons why you are joining. I say "real reasons" because sometimes recruits get caught up in the bonuses and college money. But let's face it, you wouldn't go through the hassle of joining the military just for that right? There has to be something inside of you that wants to join the military for a larger purpose. I actually want you to write that down because the act of writing it down will help you realize that reason better.
Take Advantage of the Weekly Religious Break
Just like medics are there to watch out for your physical wellness, chaplains' sole job is to keep you spiritually fit. Services are offered weekly for most faiths. Basic training bases see a hugely diverse assortment of recruits, and as such, keep a wide range of chaplains on staff. Chances are you'll find a service that suits your needs.
But the best part about attending a religious service every week isn't listening to a chaplain talk or having the opportunity to connect with recruits outside your squad. The best part about going to church every week is that you get a break.
For that period of time, you don't have anyone yelling at you or the people around you. You're not going anywhere, you're not doing anything. You're just sitting and listening, and finally getting a chance to relax a little. And that can do more to help with your spiritual wellness than a hundred sermons.
Sergeant Michael Volkin is a U.S. Army veteran. He served in Operation Enduring/Iraqi Freedom as a Chemical Operations Specialist and received an Army Commendation Medal for his efforts and for the fitness programs he designed to help his fellow soldiers. He has a Master's degree in Science and is the author of the Ultimate Basic Training series of books which help recruits prepare for the mental and physical aspects of basic training.