Fr. Ned Blick returns from Iraq

A chaplain is always on the move with very little routine
By Christopher M. Riggs
Captain Ned Blick’s ministry is jumping from the frying pan to the freezer.
The priest of the Diocese of Wichita and chaplain in the U.S. Army left for Fort Drum, N.Y., Thursday, Oct. 22, after spending a week in Kansas. Fort Drum is near the Canadian border, Fr. Blick said, and measures snow by the yard instead of by the foot.
Father Blick has been ministering to troops in Iraq for the most part since he joined the chaplain corps in January of 2008.
Being a chaplain in the Army is rewarding and diverse, he said during an interview at the Spiritual Life Center, Wichita. Father Blick ministered to U.S. troops while in Iraq and will now have to make a transition from individual soldiers to family ministry now that he is stationed on a base in the states.
Working with soldiers in his bomb squad unit was “very rewarding but challenging,” he said, adding that many families have had their loved ones deployed in the Middle East every other year for several years.
“A chaplain is always on the move with very little routine,” he said. “I was being resourced to fly six out of seven days of the week.”
With a ministry that covered 20 bases in the land of the Tigres and Euphrates rivers, Father Blick racked up quite a few frequent flier helicopter miles while carrying his Mass kit. Choppers were his primary mode of transportation to take him to troops for the sacraments and Mass, usually celebrated in a cafeteria or another field setting.
“Everyday you go to a new place,” Father Blick said. “You spent your day trying to be with the troops, trying to invite them to come to prayer, and also to be available to them – a ministry of presence.”
The general work of a chaplain is morale, he said.
“The troops have a tendency over there to be outside of their comfort zone. And (a chaplain) is there to give them a sense of comfort and peace and hope. That would be the overall effort of a chaplain.”
Some of the soldiers are lonely, tired, and scared from the multiple deployments to the area.
At Fort Drum Father Blick is in more of a parish setting where he will minister to soldiers and their families, a change from a battlefield ministry that didn’t entail baptisms and weddings.
Father Blick has moved from the desert to snow. Fort Drum has about six to seven months of winter, he said. “Fort Drum has a reputation of cold winters, but also frequent deployment. Someone who goes to Fort Drum knows I am going overseas for a year and come back for a year.”
Father Blick said he appreciated the prayers, support, and care packages he has received from the faithful of the diocese.
He asked that the petitions not end now that he’s states-side. “We need the prayers in what we call the rear-detachment, here in the United States, with the troops because their families deal with so much stress and difficulties.”
Father Blick said he’s getting ready for winter, adding that he may be learning how to cross-country ski.
He is scheduled to rejoin his brother priests in the Diocese of Wichita when his stint in the Army ends at the end of 2010.