When I signed up with the GA National Guard about ten years after having done a tour in the regular Army I’d forgotten the “so help me God” part of the oath (it occurred to me that it was common, but I figured it wouldn’t be in there because it would obviously be unconstitutional). I thought I was done, and then the captain swearing me in tossed it out. I froze for a moment and said “Er ... I can’t do that, sir.” He paused, “Okay, I’ll do it then. You’re good to go.” We saluted, we shook hands and enthusiastically said, “Welcome to HHC, 1st Battalion of the 121st Infantry Brigade! Glad to have you!” Turned out he was a very impressive, no nonsense, squared away officer—former green beret and such.
While I was at that unit a couple of senior NCOs and the chaplain made it pretty clear to me they weren’t very happy with the fact that I was still breathing while not believing what they believed. The chaplain’s assistant (CPL Lowe) was really cool and he and I ended up working in the CO’s/1SG’s office. We talked a good deal about things religious, and he often ran things I’d tossed out to him past the chaplain. He sometimes came back to the office after lunch or a church service with some utterly pathetic new apologetic that I’d pretty irrefutably shoot down in about 20 seconds on average. The chaplain’s signature was the heavy use of the worst, most religiostupidified, popular, bumper sticker kinds of cheerleading, so that’s not bragging at all. Lowe did much better through simple sincerity than the “educated” chaplain ever could.
At any rate, it was pretty clear the chaplain didn’t approve of the fact that I had a pulse, and a couple of high ranking NCOs were also fundy type ministers in real life, and they made the same sentiment pretty clear. It made me kind of happy, actually, because the CO and 1SG were both very squared away and these knuckleheads weren’t, so as a specialist (kind of like a junior sergeant) I had more pull with them, which I’m sure was another reason they didn’t particularly like having me around.
Anyway, it was an interesting year (the GA Guard has a “try the Guard for a year” deal for qualified prior service types). Just about everyone I dealt with other than Gawd’s Goon Squad were great people. And because of that no bullshit squared away ex-green beret captain who swore me in there was no issue with the religious test in the oath.
I’d likely still be in that unit now, actually serving the line as a genuine medic rather than a desk jockey if Bush weren’t the Idealogue in Chief. I’ll have to consider going back in ‘08.