FORT BRAGG, N.C.—“There is always something happening in the 112th,” says Army Chaplain Ryan Schildroth, referring to the Army’s 112th Signal Battalion (Special Operations, Airborne). If a special operations mission is happening anywhere in the world, a small team from his battalion will be there providing signal support for whichever branch of the U.S. military is involved.
Schildroth’s mission is to support these soldiers and their families. He does this both at Fort Bragg and at the battalion’s six (going on seven) signal detachments in Stuttgart, Germany; Yongsan, South Korea; Honolulu; Tampa and Homestead, Florida; and, soon, Colorado Springs.
His ministries include providing pastoral counseling and suicide prevention training, leading Bible studies (his personal favorite), supporting the All American Chapel protestant service, and conducting Strong Bonds events.
The Army describes Strong Bonds as a “unit-based, chaplain-led program which assists commanders in building individual resiliency by strengthening the Army Family.” The goal is to use relationship education and skills training to help soldiers and their families. Strong Bonds events are off-site retreats that provide a fun, safe, and secure environment in which to address the stress that relocations, deployments, and the military lifestyle in general place on soldiers and their families.
During a Strong Bonds for Singles class (also known as “How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk” training) in South Korea, a soldier asked a question about intimacy during dating, which opened a good discussion. Schildroth says these off-script interactions are what is most valuable in these classes.
Jumping out of planes is also something Schildroth’s unit does. Over the last few months, he has been working as the unit’s jumpmaster. He inspects their equipment and then “kicks them out of the aircraft.” He describes a recent exercise: “I spent this past week out with one of our companies for their validation exercise before deployment. We (my assistant and I) had the opportunity to jump with them, conduct land navigation training, and do a live fire range (don’t worry, I didn’t shoot anything!).”
This unit rotates every six months, and Schildroth has the opportunity to brief the soldiers and their families before and after the deployments. Since he doesn’t accompany the teams to provide signal support on missions, he does minister to their families, or as he puts it, “walks through some of the deployment challenges with family members while their soldier is forward.”