FROM 'MARINES' MAY 1998 (pages 20-21)
Corps' Top Chaplain Recalls His 'Marine' Career
Gunnery Sgt. Arturo Prioletta HQMC, WashingtonPucci1.jpg (28181 bytes)
During his tenure, Chaplain Pucciarelli met with military chaplain from around the world.
Above, He accepts a token of friendship from another man of the cloth.

Navy Capt. George W. Pucciarelli has dedicated most of his priesthood to counseling and ministering to Marines. But on March 31, with a gleaming Legion of Merit pinned to his uniform by the commandant, he relinquished his role as The Chaplain, U.S. Marine Corps, and accepted a new mission at the Naval Security Group, Fort Meade, Md. His successor is Navy Capt. Joe Lamonte, whose last assignment was with Headquarters, Marine Forces Pacific.
     The change of command marked the fulfillment of a dream that began many years ago in Boston.
     As a child, Pucciarelli's father would wake him and his siblings early to watch "Victory at Sea." The popular television show, chronicling the Pacific battles of World War II, planted the desire in young Pucciarelli to serve with the United States Marines.
     "Hearing the music in the program and seeing what the Marines and the Navy did in the Pacific made me realize that was what I really wanted to do," he said.
     But Pucciarelli chose an even higher calling. After graduating from Boston College, he attended St. John's Seminary. He had decided to become a Roman Catholic priest so that he could serve as a Navy chaplain with Marines. He began to realize his childhood dreams when he began a 9-year stint as a reservist in the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps in March 1972. It was during those years that he formed his association with the Corps. His temporary active duty assignments and summer augmentations took him to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. N.C.: Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.: and MCB Camp Pendleton, Calif.
     Pucciarelli entered active duty in July 1980. serving first with the 10th Marine Regiment at Camp Lejeune. After serving with the 34th Marine Amphibious Unit, he became the regimental chaplain for 8th Marines.

Time in Beirut

     Pucciarelli deployed in May 1983 with the 24th MAU to Beirut, Lebanon. It would be a tour of duty never to be forgotten. Those languishing, seemingly eternal days in the aftermath of the Oct. 23, 1983, bombing were probably the saddest and most challenging times of his career. ifnot his whole life. Pucciarelli said.

     It became a harrowing experience for everyone that morning when a lone terrorist crashed his Mercedes Benz truck. loaded with explosives, into the lobby of the BLT (battalion landing team) headquarters building.
     'That's part of their training. I think that's part of the commandant's Crucible training, because they not only go through this with their bodies and minds, but their spirit as well. They take care of one another and bring peace and tranquillity to those around them," he said.

Role of a chaplain
Pucciarelli believes a chaplain should be a "Rock of Gibraltar" during tough times when individuals are distraught, not sure about themselves, angry, sad, or rejoicing over victory. "The chaplain represents not just a living side, but a spiritual side. We sometimes forget that there is a God who gives us a spirit to do all things," he said. "If the chaplain can instill that in each Marine, he has a powerful voice."
     "No matter if one is Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, we all believe in a God that will bring us victory. If we believe we are standing in a rightful position, we will be victorious," said Pucciarelli.
     He said many Marines seek help when they are grieving and want to be told that everything will be okay. "Some think we're miracle workers. Sometimes we can be miracle workers. It's remarkable what a chaplain cando for Marines and their mission."

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     Pucciarelli's duties as Chaplain of the Marine Corps included performing marriages, counseling, devotions for the commandant, retirements, and prayer services. During his assignment at Headquarters Marine Corps, he oversaw 271 chaplains and 268 religious program specialists attached to Marine units around the globe.    
     "Navy chaplains serve not only with the Navy and the Marine Corps, but with the Coast Guard and Merchant Marines," Pucciarelli said. "So if a chaplain knows he's going to serve with a particular service or unit, he's going to have to tune into that frequency and understand that it's going to be different from the Navy."
Life after the top

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      Pucciarelli's move to become the chaplain for the Naval Security Group is a non-traditional one. "Usually, when a chaplain becomes Chaplain of the Marine Corps, he retires afterward," said Pucciarelli. "I still have three more years of active duty before I can retire."
    Although he enjoys working with Marines, Pucciarelli looks forward to the more relaxed position of his new duty assignment. "I'll still travel, but it won't be as extensive, and the responsibility won't be as much."
    "For the next five days and nights. Chaplain' was yelled all around that building. I had more Marines yelling for me during that time because they knew that their friends were dying, or their comrades were dead, or they were in grief-stricken shock," he said.
     Reliving the haunting memories of Marines with bloody hands trying to find their comrades buried in the rubble of the four-story building, Pucciarelli recalls shouts of "Can anyone hear me?" or "Anybody down there?"
     The bombing and the frantic rescue attempts cemented the reality of the Marine Corps' mission in Pucciarelli's mind. It left no doubt that, as the "Nation's 911 Force," Marines will always deploy knowing their lives could be placed in jeopardy.
     Looking back on his many years of serving side-by-side with Marines, Pucciarelli said, "Everything good that represents America is in that uniform we wear. We should be the epitome of all things that this country has been built upon."
    Chaplain Pucciarelli's other career assignments include: Brigade Chaplain, U.S. Naval Academy; ship's chaplain, USS INCHON; Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico, Va.; Senior Catholic Priest, 2nd Marine Division during Desert Shield/Desert Storm; Chaplain, Marine Forces Atlantic; and Deputy Chaplain, U.S. Marine Corps. He became The Chaplain, U. S. Marine Corps, in April 1995.