By Eric M. Hamilton
USACE Far East District
U.S. ARMY GARRISON HUMPHREYS, South Korea -- One critical aspect of any military installation is a space that allows for service members to exercise their freedom of religion. For a military city, greater numbers and diversity demand more than just a single space. The first of four new chapels was recently completed, and is slated to be put into use by mid-2016.
“Many of us in the Far East District have been personally invested in the construction of these chapels, and we’re going to be just as excited as the rest of the Chapel community to see this and our other new chapels open up,” said David M. Talbot, resident engineer of the District’s Family Housing Resident Office at Camp Humphreys. ““I’ve been part of the chapel community here for the past four and a half years. I’ll be just as excited as the rest of the chapel community to see this and our other new chapels open up.”
But the Far East District’s personal involvement with the chapels at Camp Humphreys doesn’t begin there.
“Mr. Chi, Young-hae, one of the project engineers in my office, actually worked in the early ‘80s as a quality assurance representative for the construction of the prior garrison chapel,” Talbot said. “Now my office was responsible for demolishing that chapel as part of the Humphreys transformation.”
Until around 2014, U.S. Army Garrison-Humphreys personnel exercised their freedom of religion using one small chapel (the Freedom Chapel) and a small worship space in the 501st Military Intelligence area, said Chaplain (Col.) Raymond A. Robinson, Jr., the USFK command chaplain. Since the Freedom Chapel was demolished, the chaplains have been holding services in the Humphreys high school through a facility usage agreement with the Department of Defense Education Activity.
“The previous religious facilities were insufficient in capacity and functionality to meet the total religious support needs of the community,” Robinson said. “Having dedicated religious support facilities (will be) critical enablers that empower the chaplaincy to help the commander fulfill his or her Title X responsibilities of providing for the opportunity for the free exercise of religion for the personnel within his or her command.”
Army chapels follow standard designs so they are properly configured to support the free exercise of religion for the supported population, Robinson said. The role of the Command Chaplain for U.S. Forces Korea was to provide strategic guidance, feedback and oversight in the development of these chapels, ensuring compliance with Army standards.
“Personally, I had a small role from 2005-2007 while serving as the Area III Chaplain in helping the command determine the total number of facilities and square footage required to afford the future supported community with the opportunity for the free exercise of their religious faith,” Robinson said.
While assigned to the Army Chief of Chaplains Office from 2008-2010, Robinson also had an indirect role in shaping the type of facilities being built through his work on the Army Standards and Standard Designs for religious facilities.
“It was very helpful to have reviews from the chaplains during the project’s construction, particularly from Chaplain Robinson. He was very familiar with the requirements and his input will help us avoid problems as we complete the other chapels,” Talbot said.
When construction is finished at USAG Humphreys, a total of four chapels and two religious education/family life centers will support the garrison. The criteria for determining the number, size and types of facilities are based on the projected population size of the garrison, Robinson said.
“These dedicated facilities not only provide a sacred space and atmosphere that facilitates worship and the faith development of attendees, but also represent the most effective and efficient means to manage the total religious support program for the Humphreys community,” Robinson concluded.
Dedication isn’t unique to the facility itself, but seems to be a feature in the chapel community.
“As a member of the chapel community, I volunteered a lot my off-duty time to design the audio conduit runs and the sound booth for this and the other Troop Chapel,” Talbot said. While the actual audio system will be installed through a follow-on garrison contract, the underlying design came through Talbot’s extra work and personal devotion.
For a sacred space like a post chapel, it’s a blessing to have Far East District engineers dedicated to the project.