Army Trainees: We Were Told To Attend ‘Spiritual Fitness’ BBQ For Christ

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar

A Saturday barbecue encouraging Christian “spiritual fitness” has put leaders at Fort Gordon, Georgia, in the sights of an activist group.

Army advanced individual training (AIT) students at Fort Gordon say “they were marched from their barracks to a base chapel” on Oct. 14 “for a mandatory Christian proselytizing event” Army Times reports.

As many as 500 soldiers attended the three-and-a-half hour weekend event, but complaints quickly surfaced after more than 40 soldiers and civilians at Fort Gordon reportedly contacted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s president and founder, Mikey Weinstein, according to Army Times.

In an open letter to the base commander, Maj. Gen. John Morrison Jr., published the evening of the event, Weinstein wrote that the soldiers who contacted him said they were pressured to attend the Saturday religious event. Christian rock music was played, while “enthusiastic” Army chaplains prayed over the attendees and invited soldiers to accept Jesus Christ, according to Weinstein.

While God-rock ballads, prayer, and yes, even the words “do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior?” are par for the course at church outings, the concerns raised by MRFF center around Fort Gordon students who were purportedly pressured to participate in a religious event. If true, this could be seen as a violation of service members’ constitutional religious freedoms and their rights under military law.

Related: Lazy Millennials Are Not A Reason To Bring Drill Sergeants Back To AIT »

“Our young soldiers were told you will muster up and you will come to attention in formation in front of your barracks at 1000 hours … and you better not be caught hiding the barracks,” Weinstein told Fox 54, a local Augusta news affiliate.

In response to Weinstein’s letter, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, which oversees Fort Gordon, provided Task & Purpose a statement stressing that the bi-annual event, which has occurred for the last 10 years, was not mandatory.

“The event you inquired about was the Spiritual Fitness Barbeque, which is part of a voluntary program helping to develop soldier resiliency,” the statement reads. “The instructions were clear that this was strictly a voluntary event, and that soldiers are not required to attend.”

The statement goes on to say that the brigade commander who was in attendance “saw soldiers coming and going freely with no complaints” and that the command will “look further into the incident to ensure there was no miscommunication about the voluntary nature of this event.”

Though Weinstein has claimed the trainees were instructed to attend, and the Army maintains that the barbecue is a longstanding voluntary affair, the truth — as is often the case in the military — may be somewhere in between.

In the case of AIT and similar training commands for other services, troops are in a student status and outranked by virtually everyone on post, so it’s possible that a “voluntary” weekend event could be misconstrued to mean: It would behoove you to be there. This guidance is often referred to as being “voluntold” and typically translates as: You can volunteer to do this, or spend the day cleaning the quad.

If you were at the Oct. 14 Spiritual Fitness Barbecue at Fort Gordon, Georgia and can bring some much-needed fact-checking to this affair, let us know what your experience was in the comments, or by emailing:


Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

Take $75 off a Casper Mattress and $150 off a Wave Mattress with code TASKANDPURPOSE

And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

Read More Show Less
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Charles Kettles was awarded the Medal of Honor July 18, 2016, for his actions while serving as a Flight Commander assigned to the 176th Aviation Company (Airmobile) (Light), 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, Americal Division. Then-Maj. Kettles distinguished himself in combat operations near Duc Pho, Republic of Vietnam, on May 15, 1967. (U.S. Army/Spc. Tammy Nooner)

by Martin Slagter, The Ann Arbor News, Mich.

YPSILANTI, MI - When a brigade of U.S. troops was ambushed by the North Vietnamese Army in the Song Tra Cau riverbed on the morning of May 15, 1967, Lt. Charles Kettles volunteered to lead the rescue, and he refused, again and again, to back down when faced with a barrage of gunfire.

His aircraft badly damaged, left spilling fuel, and his gunner was severely injured during the treacherous operation.

But he helicoptered in and out of the battlefield four times, saving the lives of 44 soldiers in a death-defying emergency operation that would become a legendary tale of bravery in the Vietnam War.

Nearly 50 years later, Kettles received the Medal of Honor on July 18, 2016.

Read More Show Less
The M160 Robotic Mine Flail at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Photo: Maj. Dan Marchik/U.S. Army

The battlefield of the future could feature robot medics delivering life-saving care to casualties in the line of fire. At least, that's what the Army is aiming for — and it's willing to pay millions for help doing it.

Read More Show Less
A Chinese tank rolls at the training ground "Tsugol", about 250 kilometers (156 miles ) south-east of the city of Chita during the military exercises Vostok 2018 in Eastern Siberia, Russia, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018 (Associated Press/Sergei Grits)

China is developing a lot of new and advanced weaponry, but a recent state media report suggests the Chinese military may not be entirely sure what to do with these new combat systems.

Read More Show Less
(The 621st Contingency Response Wing/Flickr)

The commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard called the ongoing partial government shutdown "unacceptable" following reports that some Coast Guardsmen are relying on donations from food pantries while their regular paychecks remain on hold.

"We're five-plus weeks into the anxiety and stress of this government lapse and your non-pay," Adm. Karl Schultz said in a video message to service members. "You, as members of the armed forces, should not be expected to shoulder this burden."

Read More Show Less