State's new religious affairs position gives Pa. Guard a voice in chaplain assistant development

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Story by SSG Doug Roles on 10/28/2017
By Doug Roles
28 ID Public Affairs NCO
A long-time 28th Infantry Division soldier has become the first Pennsylvania Army National Guard member to be promoted to the rank of sergeant major in what had been known as the Army's chaplain assistant military occupational specialty (MOS).
Sgt. Maj. Anthony Reitz of Erie, Pa. serves as chief religious affairs specialist NCOIC at Joint Force Headquarters, Fort Indiantown Gap. He was promoted to his current rank June 2015 and graduated the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy March 2016.
Reitz's promotion fills the state's E-9 religious affairs NCOIC slot with a military occupational specialty (MOS) qualified soldier and enables the Pa. Guard to have a representative in the Army process that decides future changes to the MOS. The move also gives enlisted religious affairs NCOs a new top career step.
The Army re- named the "chaplain assistant" MOS to religious affairs specialist effective Oct. 1. The chaplain assistant/religious affairs position at JFHQ historically was not made available. Lobbying by state and division-level chaplains effectively opened the slot for an MOS-qualified soldier.
"The position has always been there, but we had never filled it from the ranks of religious affairs NCOs." Reitz said. "The Pa. Guard has never had a sergeant major in the chaplain's assistant MOS. So, I'm the first one and hopefully the first of many NCOs who will hold this position."
As a civilian, Reitz works as a readjustment counseling technician for Erie Vet's Center where he conducts outreach to veterans about VA services. As a sergeant major, Reitz can participate with other senior leaders in the Army 56M MOS board that meets quarterly to discuss the religious affairs field.
"We dictate training and the direction of the MOS," Reitz said. "Without a soldier in this E-9 position, Pa. National Guard would not be involved. We wouldn't have a seat at the table."
Reitz says it's important for the Guard to be involved in discussions about MOS-specific training because citizen-soldiers have to balance training time requirements against civilian employment and benefit greatly from on-line training opportunities. He noted that something on the horizon for religious affairs NCOs is a schooling opportunity that provides a path for religious affairs NCOs to earn a bachelor's degree in religious studies.
"It's going to become curriculum that is needed for the MOS," Reitz said. "And the board is working on that process right now."
Reitz joined the Pa. Army National Guard in 1989, enlisting in the 28th Infantry Division's 1-112th Infantry Regiment as a radio teletype operator. He also held the MOS of "wireman," also within communications. In 1993 he was ready for a change and became a chaplain's assistant.
"I actually re-classed here at the Gap," he said of the MOS schooling. "I saw it as an avenue to help other soldiers in my unit."
Reitz's advice to religious affairs NCOs is to remember the chaplain corps three lines of effort: Nurture the living, care for the sick and honor the dead.
"By being immersed in our units we have the opportunity to do," Reitz said. "We have to meet our mission at all levels."
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