There is no way, yet, of flying an XYZ-2 over the terrains of the human heart and the human spirit. We can reconnoitre, of course; and we must build fast our camps against ignorance and fear and distrust and hopelessness. But nothing of this will avail unless we plant our main command posts on high grounds where are determined the significance of the individual, the complete freedom of the human mind, and the power of the human spirit to be exalted.
— Harry Huntt Ransom, from My Profession Is War,
a talk delivered to the chaplains on May 27, 1960
The idea of a one-month seminar for U.S. Air Force chaplains was born during the summer of 1955 when Maj. Gen. Charles I. Carpenter, chief of chaplains of the Air Force, and his staff analyzed a full year’s data on counseling problems encountered by chaplains throughout the Air Force. They discovered that at least half of the problems the chaplains described involved marriage and family difficulties.
They were the first and often the only people to whom airmen turned when they had family problems or other emotional difficulties. Even on the larger bases where there were psychiatrists in the health service, the airmen were likely to seek the chaplain as a first resource. At the far-flung bases, there were no other resources except fellow airmen or officers.
Statistics were clear that a high percentage of the chaplains’ time was devoted to working on the airmen’s human relations problems. Yet this was well beyond the scope of the theological training most of the chaplains had received. The question emerged: How could the Air Force help chaplains gain new skills in this important area?
It was decided that a solid educational approach to the problem of human relations was necessary. After checking possibilities, Carpenter asked the Hogg Foundation to assist in planning such a training course.
Several days later in Austin, Texas, the telephone rang, and Carpenter presented his idea to Bernice Milburn Moore, who headed the foundation’s work in national, state, and community service. She conferred with RobertSutherland, director of the foundation, and together they started investigating the opportunities for producing a series of seminars on The University of Texas campus.
Although the Hogg Foundation had worked with the US military since 1941, it had never launched its own training program for service members. Sutherland and Moore, however, immediately saw the possibilities, both for the behavioral science staff and faculty at the university and for the chaplains, in sharing this type of seminal activity.
Drawing from the faculty and other specialties, they began to prepare for an influx of 120 chaplains, 30 at a time, for four one-month seminars during the first year. In October 1956 the first session began.
The chaplains who took the course represented most of the major Protestant denominations. Members of the first four seminars were selected from air commands serving in 40 countries.
Before the first group of chaplains arrived, the seminar staff read and studied thumbnail sketches of counseling problems or situations that had been written by prospective participants from their experiences and sent in through the Office of the Chief of Air Force Chaplains.
The foundation enlisted the help of faculty members from The University of Texas at Austin who could bring the findings of basic sciences to bear on the problems of human behavior, with special reference to marriage and family life. They came from the departments of psychology, sociology, and educational psychology. Dr. Glenn Ramsey, a clinical psychologist, was invited to become associate to Moore, who directed the seminars. Clergy members, physicians, and psychiatrists were also called to assist.
Some of the chaplains, recalling their college and seminary work, expected the seminar to consist entirely of lecture courses. Instead, they used many new methods. The objective was to help each man acquire a better understanding of himself, the problems he faced, and the people he was going to serve. Role playing, group projects, and dramatized radio discussions were used, in addition to discussion groups and lecture sessions.
Scientific research and clinical findings furnished the theoretical background for practical application to counseling problems. Counseling methods were reviewed and highlighted, mainly to show their relevance to the work of chaplains. Problem inventories were discussed, and actual problems were often acted out, with the chaplains themselves sometimes taking the part of the counselor or of a distraught wife or disgruntled airman.
In general, the chaplains found that many factors contributed to their growing understanding. The atmosphere of a college campus, the availability of libraries, and the dormitory sessions with fellow chaplains became learning experiences in themselves. Social contacts included outdoor picnics near one of Austin’s lakes and Sunday afternoon parties at a staff member’s home.
Class sessions ranged from actual demonstrations of the chaplain’s role and limitations in marriage counseling to a discussion of methods of referral and the use of community resources. At one point a gynecologist met with the group to explain how the physical aspects of marriage may call for referrals to a physician.
A high point of the seminars, many chaplains later said, was the “sermon” by Dr. Eugene C. McDanald, Jr., a psychiatrist and director of training for psychiatric residents at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Dr. McDanald brought together his own clinical insight with the insight about human relations that had been preserved in sacred writings. On the topic of “Immature Uses of Speech,” he said:
Since everyone has some degree of resistance to assuming responsibility and learning to love, everyone in some measure is immature and insecure. If one feels chronic insecurity, he develops some kind of a facade, behind which he attempts to hide. Yet the methods used to conceal insecurity actually serve to reveal it.
Paul points up in these words the first of the four ways in which immaturity is likely to show: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”
Paul is saying in this statement that people tend to cover up anxieties or inability to love with empty chatter, or with lofty and pious speech. Speech as a means of hiding concerns works so well for many that they are not aware of draining off anxiety through talking in which they have little or nothing to say.
According to the existential philosophers, modern man speaks glibly and engages in small talk and gossip. He commits himself to making a great deal of noise in order to hide himself from others, and from the stern realities of living. This observation of these was confirmed by a group of children who were asked to comment on what it was that they did and did not like about grown-ups. They said, in substance, that some adults talk too much. They tend to talk down to children and to use sarcasm and ridicule too liberally; all too often they show an inability to listen. These same children added that they liked those adults who listened to their ideas and talked just the right amount.
By 1967, when the last of the series of month-long seminars was held, the foundation had sponsored 21 seminars in all, with 20-30 chaplains attending each. It was the first such program offered in the United States, and was part of the vast postwar expansion of psychological services and psychologically minded education in the United States.