Fort Drum boasts many support organizations for Soldiers and Family Members, but one has been busy preparing to reach out and spread spiritual resilience across the installation.
Protestant Women of the Chapel is a religious organization run by women for women – spouses, Soldiers and Civilian Employees, according to Chaplain (Maj.) Rick Cantrell, installation family life chaplain and PWOC sponsor.
“I’ve been here since 2011, and they’ve always had a robust program, but this last year, the leadership has really expanded their ministries,” he said. “They are hand-selected leaders who are in sync and are working to really expand their impact on the post. They’ve really made a difference.”
While the Main Post Chapel is under construction, PWOC has been meeting in modular buildings on South Post, taking over classrooms, offices and other extra space for praise and worship, child care, Children of the Chapel and Bible study groups, Cantrell said.
“They have outgrown our facilities,” he said. “Once the (renovations are complete), I think PWOC can be one of the most impactful ministries here at Fort Drum.”
Right now, PWOC has roughly 100 members, and around 70 children from 6 weeks to 12th grade are involved in youth programs, according to Muriel Gregory, PWOC president.
“One of the things about PWOC that is really neat is you can find it on every major installation,” she said. “When you (make a permanent-change-of-station move) from one place to the next, you know there’s a group of ladies you can easily relate to. Even if you don’t know anybody, it’s a great place to get plugged in and meet people.
“(Women can) find like-minded people who are going through the same struggles and find some comfort,” Gregory continued. “It’s a place where they can unload and leave feeling refreshed.”
PWOC not only provides support for women, but also for children, she added.
Cantrell agreed, adding that a great benefit of the program is that it is truly a “Family-oriented program.”
“Soldiers tell me all the time that ‘if my spouse is happy, then I am happy.’ It makes a difference,” he said.
Organizations like PWOC are pivotal to highly deployed units like 10th Mountain Division (LI), Cantrell explained. Spouses who are faced with deployment can find support from their peers.
“They can network with other ladies … and they can share the pain of separation, provide emotional support and wisdom,” Cantrell said, adding that a solid support network is especially helpful to young spouses who have never been through a deployment.
“Praying together and supporting each other builds spiritual resiliency,” he continued. “It brings people together who can educate new spouses on other services and programs.”
Gregory, who has been involved in PWOC for 10 years, said that she hopes to use her own experiences to help others.
“I reflect on my own personal experiences and what I’ve observed from other ladies,” she said. “What I really wanted to create was the atmosphere of a sanctuary. People are accepted for who they are – there’s no judgment, there’s no rank – (they) are loved for who they are.
“It’s a big sisterhood of military wives,” Gregory added. “There’s a wealth of wisdom on military life, parenting and marriage. We all bring that to the table.”
PWOC offers two sessions every Thursday – one from 9 a.m. to noon and one beginning at 6:30 p.m. The morning session is held at the complex on the corner of Fourth Street and Oswego on South Post, and the evening session is held at Po Valley Chapel. For more information, call 772-5591. o
Editor’s note: Look in an upcoming issue of The Mountaineer for an article about the Catholic Women of the Chapel.