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News | Oct. 14, 2020

JTF-CS Command Chaplain receives 2020 MCA Distinguished Service Award

By JTF-CS Public Affairs JTF-CS

The Joint Task Force Civil Support (JTF-CS) Command Chaplain was recognized by the Military Chaplains Association as the Army Reserve Distinguished Chaplain for 2020 during a ceremony Tuesday, Oct. 13, in Columbia, S.C.

Army Maj. Steven Roby served double-duty as the full-time JTF-CS Chaplain and a Virginia Beach pastor since February when JTF-CS first responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in New York and New Jersey.

The MCA Distinguished Service Award was initiated in 1991 and is presented each year to recognize the ministries of active duty and reserve chaplains in the Army, Air Force, Navy (including Navy chaplains serving with Marines and Coast Guard), Civil Air Patrol and Department of Veterans Affairs. Roby was recognized during a ceremony at Columbia International University’s new Student Conference Center. The award was presented by Maj. Gen. Thomas Solhjem, Army chief of chaplains.

As the JTF-CS command chaplain, Roby coordinated with the U.S. Army North command chaplain to manage all religious support teams during the Department of Defense COVID-19 response in New York and New Jersey. JTF-CS provided command and control of the COVID-19 response in New York and New Jersey to support FEMA and help communities in need at the direction of U.S. Northern Command, through USARNORTH.

“I worked very closely with Col. Stan Whitten to make sure we had religious-support coverage throughout the Northeast,” Roby said. “When the task force started providing medical teams in civilian hospitals, it became more of a challenge to provide support outside the (Javits New York Medical Station).

Roby also worked with defense coordinating officers in New York and New Jersey to coordinate DoD active duty and state National Guard chaplain support throughout the region.

“The big thing was area coverage to make sure everyone we had in the joint operation area had a chaplain to talk to and had the ability to practice whatever religion they adhere to,” he said. “The coordination was primarily to make sure the people we sent forward in different areas had coverage, and we were able to do that by working with the Title 32 chaplains.”

Roby said the coordination between the state National Guard and DoD active duty was unique and provided some good lessons on how to work together to provide religious support without duplicating efforts.  He added that working through the defense coordinating officer was essential to ease communication across state and federal components.

Roby coordinated religious support for the teams in New York and New Jersey from the JTF-CS headquarters at Fort Eustis, while also providing direct support to command members working from the headquarters and their families.  As an Army Reservist he also maintained his duties as the pastor at the Waters Edge Church in Virginia Beach.

“At the time we weren’t physically meeting, we would prerecord sermons and provide them for church members,” he said.

Roby also deployed to Texas from late July to early September where he provided religious support to an Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force that was treating COVID-19 patients at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston. During that time, he relied on his church leadership to provide sermons and lead other activities.

He added that this is his first recognition as a military chaplain he has received at this level, and he was both surprised and honored to receive the MCA award.

“I feel very honored and blessed, and very proud of the work our command has done in New York, and very proud of the team I got embedded with in Texas and the work they did,” he said. “When you’re in a role like I was as the task force chaplain, there’s so much credit due to the chaplains who were on the ground doing the work, and I want to acknowledge that. I was proud of what I was able to accomplish, but couldn’t have accomplished anything without them and the work they did.”

When ordered, JTF-CS conducts chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear response and all-hazards defense support of civil authorities operations in support of the lead federal agency in order to save lives, mitigate human suffering and prevent further injury. The command is located in Mullan Hall, Joint Base Langley Eustis, and comprises active duty, reserve, National Guard and civilian members from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.