By Chaplain (Capt.) Thomas Robinson
Special to GUIDON
There is a tradition at Fort Leonard Wood, the home of the U.S. Army Engineer School, 554th Engineer Battalion.
Before every new engineer, whether officer or enlisted, is inducted into the engineer regiment, the unit chaplain leads them in the Prayer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
According to retired Chaplain (Col.) Harold Carlson, the author of the prayer, it is “a prayer that captures some of the mission of the engineers while inviting the presence of God in the affairs of the engineers.”
Carlson, who retired as the garrison chaplain of Fort Leonard Wood in 2005 and completed his basic training at the same location in 1971, revealed that the Engineer Corps did not always have an official prayer.
In 1998, he and his family considered retiring around Fort Leonard Wood where they purchased several acres of farm land. It was then that he received a call from the Chief of Chaplains Office. He was asked to become the chaplain for the entire Engineer Corps.
Despite the Corps’ 223-year rich and storied history, it never had a chaplain.
When the corps was dealing with some critical incident stress issues, it was determined that a chaplain was needed.
Because of his training in that area, Carlson accepted the challenge.
In a January 1999 article written by Carlson and published in Engineer Update, he said “I see part of my mission as keeping the command apprised of matters of religion and morale and seeking to further the spirit of goodwill and camaraderie that already exists in this great organization.”
As the first command chaplain of the Engineer Corps, Carlson received no duty description, so he began to learn as much as he could about the corps and how best to serve it.
During this time, he discovered that there was no official prayer for the corps.
Carlson said he was not aware of any other branches having official prayers either, and so that was not his inspiration.
Rather, it was because of his conviction about the importance of prayer within the ranks of the Army profession, coupled with what he had researched about the corps, that he decided to write.
With the help of a couple career engineer officers to correctly capture some of the missions and language of the engineers, Carlson created what became the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official prayer in 1999.
On Sept. 1 of the same year, Lt. Gen. Joseph Ballard, then-Chief of Engineers, accepted the prayer as the official prayer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Here is the official prayer in its entirety:
“Almighty God, creator of the universe,
We praise you for spanning heaven and Earth and holding the plumb line of the cosmos in your gracious hand.
Thank you for past engineers who have served with dedication, gallantry, patriotism and skill sometimes at the cost of their mortal lives.
Bless today all men and women of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, wherever they are stationed around the globe.
As we perform our varied tasks, guide us in making rough places smooth, crooked ways straight, and our environment safer. May our minds be keen, our calculations accurate, our myriad projects successful, and our faith in you unending.
Enable our topographers to be precise, and our stewards of resources to be steadfast. May our works reflect a degree of your perfection and bring delight to everyone who benefits from them.
Give audacity and courage to our combat elements. May our lead on the battlefield enjoy your guard as we prepare the way for others who are committed to freedom and justice throughout the world.
Open our inner lives to know you better and receive your gift of deliverance through salvation.
Grant us wisdom in our efforts to improve, maintain, protect, and restore your creation.
Inspire us to also treat fairly all you entrust to our care.
Help us to conform to your will and be faithful in all our pursuits. Then may we mirror your divine order, with leadership in engineering, that builds a lasting legacy for every generation.
In your name we pray, Almighty God, engineer of all eternity, Amen.”
(Editor’s note: Robinson is the chaplain for the 554th Engineer Battalion.)