Story and photo by Cpl. Meredith Brown
FORWARD OPERATING BASE GERONIMO, Afghanistan – It is Saturday night. The moon is visible through the sandy haze. The sounds of Guitar Hero are heard outside a small tent. A group of Marines are gathered inside rocking out to the various bands. Lt. Bryan Davenport, the chaplain for 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), watches the Marines give their best shot before piping up from the back row and asking to get the next turn.
His selection is Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer.” He rips up the solo and uses it as he transitions into the night’s bible study. Naturally, he catches some flak for his use of the song, but when he stands in front of the Marines and sailors in attendance he has their respect and attention. After a video and discussion, he takes prayer requests and closes with a word of prayer. The Marines continue on with their night and prepare for the next day’s mission. It has been a long two days leading up to this opportunity at Forward Operation Base Geronimo, convoying across Helmand province.
As the chaplain of 3rd CEB, Davenport does not have the privilege of staying at one base; his Marines are divided up and spread across the province executing different missions. Whether it is rolling on a multiple-day convoy, or waiting at the airstrip terminal, Davenport adapts to the needs of his Marines.
“I had no idea what I was getting into,” Davenport said with a laugh. “You don’t spend too much time thinking about it. ‘Okay, we’ll get there when we get there.’ You own it, and that helps you just do it.”
As a chaplain, it is his duty to facilitate religious services for his Marines and sailors, provide worship for his own faith, care for everyone and advise the command on the welfare of his troops as well as counseling and advising individual Marines.
While his Marines are out conducting clearing missions, detecting and detonating improvised explosive devices, the Poulsbo, Wash., native takes time to prepare for his bible studies and worship services.
A single lights shines over Davenport’s shoulders as he sits in FOB Geronimo’s chapel, illuminating the scattered sheets of music just enough for him to rehearse. His fingers move methodically up and down the neck of the guitar, playing familiar tunes. He quietly sings the lyrics; the look of unsaturated happiness showers his persona. He is busy preparing for a church service Sunday night, held in coordination with Lt. Charles Ferguson, the chaplain for 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment.
The night of the service comes. He stands and puts his guitar strap across his shoulder and grabs his pick from the music stand. This is the first time the attendees have had live music in months. The rhythm starts, the congregation joins in, singing words of praise.
Davenport’s call to serve as a chaplain came easily once he finished seminary at Talbot School of Theology.
“My father was career Navy, my brother is a CH-46E pilot in the Marine Corps and I saw God working in their lives, so when the Lord convicted me and was like ‘you need to be about my business’ the question of where was easy.”
Davenport completed seminary school at Talbot School of Theology and became a chaplain in the Navy reserves in 2007 and then made the switch to active duty in 2009.
“I guess the short end of it is simply obedience,” said Davenport. “I’m not the most experienced, not necessarily the most skilled, but I’ve just taken that step to obey God and He’s opened up every door ever since then.”
“Chaplain Davenport is absolutely dedicated to the welfare of his Marines and sailors,” said Ferguson, who attended chaplain school with Davenport and has known him for more than three and a half years. “He does an outstanding job and is full of compassion, concern and care for those he serves and I am glad to call him both a colleague and a friend.”
Davenport strives to encourage his Marines and sailors, but an example of the rewards of his job occurred recently during his day-to-day interactions with his troops when the encouragement was returned to him.
“The other day, I was talking to one of my Marines and he was like ‘it’s okay chaps, you just be yourself’, and that was a Marine just turning around and I don’t know if he meant to, but that was just an amazing encouragement,” said Davenport. “They give me the motivation to do what I do.”
More photos here.