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Pfc. Kimberly Hackbarth, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Date: 11.29.2009
Following the command "Dismount!" a group of Soldiers jumped off the ramp of a Stryker and scanned the area for potential threats.
Surrounded by Soldiers whose main job it is to protect the commander, Spc. Jacob Barbe, a chaplain assistant, trains with the personal security detachment in order to learn how to properly protect the chaplain.
Barbe's mission in the Army is helping the chaplain with important services, preparing sermons and providing religious support throughout unit. When those tasks are done, he searches for a different, but equally important mission; tagging along with the 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division's PSD.
It's necessary to train with the PSD to gain experience and knowledge of tactics used when outside the wire in order to effectively protect the chaplain, said Barbe, an Ocala, Fla. native. Chaplains are designated as non-combatants and do not carry weapons.
"I'm with the PSD for everything except for physical training and when I'm working with the chaplain," said Barbe.
Chaplain (1st Lt.) Jake Snodgrass, a native of Ames, Okla., believes spending so much time with the PSD Soldiers is good for Barbe.
"It gives him a broad understanding of tactics and his job and builds relations with Soldiers in the unit," said Snodgrass.
Barbe first began training with the PSD during the brigade's June 2009 rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La. After the summer training and deployment to Iraq shortly after, Barbe is indistinguishable next to the other guys.
"They consider me PSD, not chaplain assistant," he said.
Still, the bond with the PSD Soldiers is unexpected and Barbe said he is surprised at how well he and the combat arms Soldiers get along.
Spc. Curtis Bitterly, a scout with the PSD, acknowledged Barbe's freedom to train with his detachment and admits that, in a way, he envies the option.
"He just comes up here as a dismount and comes on missions if he wants to," said Bitterly, a San Antonio native.
Barbe enjoys the choice of going between jobs and benefits from aspects of both.
Being a chaplain assistant is rewarding for Barbe because he facilitates activities that help boost the morale of Soldiers and make everyone have a good day.
He also likes being a part of the PSD because they allow him the opportunity to do "Hooah Soldier stuff seen on TV" that being a chaplain assistant doesn't exactly offer.
"You can't shoot off a [.50 caliber machine gun] in the chaplain's office," he joked.
Snodgrass highly recommends other chaplain assistants train with PSD or infantry platoons to develop them as Soldiers.
"If [Barbe's] doing missions, he knows the ins and outs and can brief me about procedure in case anything goes wrong during a mission," said Snodgrass.
Whether he's out on patrol with the PSD or setting up a sermon, Barbe has the skills and techniques of both a chaplain assistant and a PSD Soldier that allow him to protect and assist the chaplain the most proficient way possible.