Reverend Stuart Hallam is one of only a handful of commando-trained chaplains in the Royal Navy.
Ministry on the front line in Afghanistan is a little different to the normal parish duties expected of a clergyman back in the UK, as Reverend Hallam explained:
Operations tend to focus the mind and, for many UK serving personnel, faith and spirituality, so often neglected at home, start to become more important. Many people find themselves asking very deep and searching questions about their own beliefs and values.
Reverend Hallam is currently serving a 3-month tour of duty as the chaplain to the Joint Aviation Group based at Camp Bastion in Helmand province:
Part of my role is to help deployed personnel to explore what is important to them and also act as a sounding board. In the Royal Navy the chaplain is the ‘friend and advisor’ to all, regardless of whether people are traditionally religious or not. It’s my role to get alongside them and to help look after their general well-being.
As well as the usual round of Sunday services, Reverend Hallam also supports those personnel who are struggling with personal issues. He said:
Time away from family and friends is always hard to cope with, but when events happen either at home or in theatre then things can really become stressful and I am here to be a ‘shoulder to cry on’ and to give help and support where it is needed most.
Back in the UK, Reverend Hallam serves as the chaplain to the Commando Helicopter Force, based at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in Somerset.
And this isn’t Reverend Hallam’s first time in Afghanistan:
I was last here in 2008 with 40 Commando Royal Marines and what has been really fascinating during this tour is to see just how things have changed since then, particularly to see how the Afghan National Security Forces are now taking the lead across the board – something that’s great to see.
And the highlight… I get the ‘God Quad’ to ride around on!