Chaplain DiConti is the chaplain for the Marine battalion that replaced us. Like me, he believes that a ministry-of-presence (being out with the guys) is essential to ministry. We can't lead from the chapel. My commander made room in his personal security convoy of four gun trucks to help me escort Chaplain Diconti and his assistant to our four out posts in the city. The picture above is of us at COP Iron. Also pictured are some of his Marines on the burn barrel detail--a duty our Soldiers were too happy to hand over. (The barrels are the receptacles in the outhouses--the contents are burned every morning for purposes of sanitation and health--sounds healthy, doesn't it.) I enjoyed the time we spent together before moving north of the city.
Chaplain Mitch Mason was the chaplain I replaced at Camp Blue Diamond. He and I came to Iraq together --this time and last. His unit was given a new mission about three months into our deployment (which we just learned has been extended to 15 months--oh well). Our history together helped make our transition seamless--the same wasn't true for the others in our battalions. I am attaching pictures here of Mitch and his assistant Specialist Ortiz in their office (which is now mine) and another of Mitch preaching at our Easter Sunrise Service. The story is that the building we use as a chapel was used by Uday and Qusay Hussain (Saddam's sons) as a brothel. I guess if your gonna have that kind of connection--it's better to have a brothel become a chapel than the other way around, right? Chaplain Mason and Ortiz left a few days ago, but not before we were able to enjoy each other's company. They had lots of fun losing to me in Texas Hold'em--a new ministry skill I've acquired. Pictured is me gloating and Staff Sergeant Barker lamenting that my strait was one card higher than his.