Volume 31, No. 4
Chaplain Beats The Devil Out Of Soldiers
By Sgt. 1st Class Robert Stephenson, NJDMAVA/PA
day she counsels soldiers on everything from dealing with family
to mild depression,but after hours,
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Joanne Martindale wields a
mean ping-pong paddle in the mini MWR facility
at 42nd Division Support Command headquarters
at Forward Operating Base Speicher.
You might say it’s a form of therapy, both
for her and those she counsels.
“I used to play with my mother
when I was
growing up and my mother just passed this last
August,” she says. “Something about it reminds
me of playing with her. When I first saw
the ping-pong table here I thought "I’ve got good
memories associated with that."
Word has gotten
around that she’s the one
to beat when it comes to ping-pong, a reputation
she doesn’t discourage.
“We’ll get up there to play and I’ll
say, ‘Who’s going to lose today,’” she laughs. “So
they line up waiting to play, and we have fun,
and I encourage them and they encourage me,
and it really doesn’t matter who wins.”
What does matter is that it is one way for her to
know her soldiers, and a way for them to get to know her,
and to trust her. “The more they trust you the more they
open up. I’m much busier now then I was the first month
because people trust.”
Soldiers come to her
with a number of different issues, but family issues top the
list, and they can run the gamut
from dealing with a long distance relationship to family
finances and other problems.
“When they walk in the door, I say to them anything
say here is in confidence. So they’ll just pour out their
I have so many soldiers say ‘I haven’t told anyone
This forms a unique bond of familiarity between
Martindale and her Soldiers.
“I can be in a room and know 25 people’s
life history because they’ve come and told me about their family
their difficulties and I’m glad because they are able to
unburden themselves so they are better able to do their
When she’s not counseling Soldiers or beating
them at ping-pong, the 14-year Army veteran is one of three brigade
chaplains who oversee the 13 chaplains and 15 chaplain
assistants from various units who reside on FOB Speicher.
Never one to stand still, Martindale also travels the
seeking out soldiers who may not be able to come to her.
This also gives her the chance to meet them on their own
turf, so she can see first-hand the job that they do while on
duty, another way in which she gets to know her Soldiers.
Eventually, conversations will return to ping-pong
a challenge will ensue, which she gladly accepts, because
the chaplain knows full well that while it is therapy for the
soldiers, it is also stress relief for her as well.
a little nervous to come here myself - a husband,
two kids. It’s tough. But I wouldn’t be anywhere else,
because I’ve learned so much – not only about myself,
also about Soldiers, about people. I’ve met some amazing