Traveling with the CNO — Fort Jackson


Scoop Deck blogger Lance M. Bacon took a day trip with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead this week. This is the play-by-play report.


We’ve left Georgia and arrived in South Carolina. The scenery is much the same. The humidity is much the same. The bugs look a little bigger. But the biggest difference is the base – make that, the fort.

There is no open water for miles, yet no shortage of sailors here at Fort Jackson. We are at the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Training Center. The school used to be in Rhode Island, but the ever “purplization” of the military has moved it here. At least it is a better choice than was made when they moved the Public Affairs school in the early ’90s to Fort Meade, putting a never-ending supply of aspiring journalists and photographers on the same base as the super-secret NSA.

The new chaplaincy schoolhouse opened Jan. 15, and classes started two days later. The smell of fresh paint still lingers, and a multitude of pictures and plaques stand ready for wall assignment.

Scoop Deck was treated to a tour by Cmdr. J. Hedges, the school’s executive officer. A 19-year veteran, Hedges has done 25 months in Iraq. His enthusiasm for his mission and calling are evident.

The school holds its heritage second only to the faiths it serves. On the quarterdeck stands a seven-foot wooden pulpit that predates the Rhode Island schoolhouse.  In one of the rooms that hosts the various worship settings stands a 200-year old case containing a Torah, the first five books of the Bible. Also in a place of honor stands the “Capodanno Bell,” taken from the fast frigate named after Chaplain Father Vincent Robert Capodanno, a priest killed in Vietnam who later was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Scoop deck thought Capodanno was the only Navy chaplain to receive the Medal of Honor, but astute reader “Chaps” reminded us of Chaplain Joseph O’Callahan, who was awarded the medal for his actions during an attack on USS Franklin in 1945. Bravo Zulu, Chaps, and apologies to the honorable memory and sacrifice of O’Callahan.

Indeed, theirs is a heritage worth honoring.

The CNO said he was especially pleased with the visit. “Chaplains in the Navy have a very, very special place. They take care of our people … our families, [and]they provide the spiritual support that our men and women need,” he said. “As a commanding officer and as a leader, on countless occasions I have turned to chaplains for counsel [and]advice.”


Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SS/SW) Rick West speak with and answer questions from sailors from the 30th Naval Construction Regiment at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. (Photo by MC1 Tiffini Jones Vanderwyst)


We have arrived at the Individual Augmentee Combat Training Detachment, which one sailor affectionately called “15 buildings out in the middle of way out there.” That may have been a slight exaggeration – I counted at least 20 buildings. But the spirit of the sentiment holds true. This place is a whole bunch of nothing. Of course, it’s meant to prepare these sailors for an even less-inviting environment.

Not much for Scoop Deck to see here. But the reason for this is certainly worth mentioning. CNO is having a private discussion with a few dozen sailors and officers who are shipping out at 0200. His schedule was built around them. The talk clearly motivated the admiral, who had a spring in his step after the meeting.


Van pulled up to the aircraft at 1845. We were wheels-up at 1855.


About Author

A Navy brat who spent eight years in the Marines (two years aboard the carrier Independence). Worked in journalism in Eastern North Carolina through the latter part of the 90s, then became editor of Air Force Times in 2000. Stayed there five years, then took a break to finish some school. Now back in the game with Navy Times.


  1. Capodanno is not the only chaplain to be awarded the Medl of Honor. Chaplain Joseph O’Callahan was awarded for his actions during an attack on USS Franklin in 1945.

  2. photos were published with naval personell attending a dinner with neil armstrong (astronaut). any chance that there will be more info on the sailors who attended this function/ dinner? and where can i get pictures? my son is one of the navy persons.

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