By Paul J. O’Leary
FORT JACKSON, S.C. - In a solemn ceremony held at the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School fitness center, Chaplain (Major General) Thomas L. Solhjem announced its commission of the Army’s first CrossFit chaplain.
“As the entity responsible for counseling, the Chaplain Corps must constantly evolve to meet the needs of our soldiers,” said Solhjem. “With CrossFit being the largest growing religion followed by soldiers, it only made sense to commission a chaplain who could meet their specific needs.”
The Chaplain Corps dates back to 1775 and provides religious and spiritual support to soldiers and families during peacetime and in war. Chaplains are considered non-combatants.
Chaplain (Captain) Gregory “Chino” Chen is the first CrossFit chaplain commissioned in the history of the U.S. Army. Chen has a Master's Degree in Divinity from South Florida Bible College and is a Certified CrossFit Level 3 Trainer. Prior to accepting his commission and becoming an active-duty officer, Chen was the owner-operator of Beach Beast CrossFit in Deerfield Beach, Florida.
“I’m pretty excited about the opportunity to witness to my fellow fitness and health advocates,” explained Chaplain Chen. “I’m not going to speak ill of other religions, but those big box chapels just don’t give your soul the kind of workout that crosses all the modalities of spirituality and fitness.”
Chen, whose initial duty station will be with 1st Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., says he’s looking forward to introducing a daily POD, or “prayer of the day”, in which followers will take on challenges such as alternating sprints, box jumps, and recitations of prayers for time. Chen also plans to provide soldiers with keto-friendly meal prep and communion.
CrossFit, a popular functional fitness company, has developed a dedicated following in the military.
Chaplain (Captain) Chen and his CrossFit disciples have been granted a policy exemption which allows them to wear Next Level brand uniforms and boots manufactured by CrossFit sponsor Nobull. CrossFit adherents have also been granted a grooming policy exception which allows full chest and body shaving to achieve greater reduction in drag.
“I’m not saying the only way to heaven is through Kipping Pull-ups, it’s just a more efficient way to salvation,” said Chen. “I recognize soldiers are imperfect people, like anyone, which is why spirituality in CrossFit can be scaled until the individual is ready to set their sights on their spiritual PR and got their RX+ level salvation.”
Soldiers who follow the vegan faith have petitioned for their own chaplains, but Chen hopes to be cross-trained to lead their services much in the way Christian chaplains can lead services for a number of denominations.
“I mean what two religions are closer in both rabid indoctrination and impassioned proselytizing than veganism and CrossFit?” asked Chen.
While chaplains are considered non-combatants, Chen is confident CrossFit chaplains can “close with and destroy PRs” if they just stick with it.
“I’m not going to talk trash about other faiths,” said Chen. “But just look at those skinny calves. They’re talking trash already.”
Paul J. O’Leary is an Army veteran who enjoys mixing good bourbon with Rip-its and thinks a couple 15-6s are a small price to pay for a good time. He also writes for Task & Purpose and can be found on Twitter at @pauljoleary.