To Battle We Go: Ghost Regiments

Aug 10, 2023 | by Brad Rowland

To Battle We Go: Ghost Regiments

By: Dr. Steve Kellner

One of the issues our military has had to face historically is what to do with so-called "ghost regiments." These are combat units that, on paper at least, are of a certain size and fighting strength, but in reality are so reduced by casualties that they can't fulfill their mission.

Desperate to keep up appearances and morale, political leaders and generals have often continued to move these units around like chess pieces on their war maps, ordering them to attack or defend a position even when everyone in the room knew they didn't have the strength to do the job.

Sometimes the solution is to combine two or more ghost regiments and form a full-strength regiment. But this is easier said than done, because every regiment has its own history, traditions, and operational methods, and the emotional bonds formed by fighting together. A regiment made up of pieces of other regiments won't be very cohesive and will fight less effectively, at least for a time.

The other, more extreme solution is to deactivate the regiment, do away with it all together, and disperse its remaining members to other regiments. But this means the loss of the history and examples of some of the most storied units. And the members of the disbanded regiment often feel like the military equivalent of orphans.

We in The Salvation Army are facing a similar situation today. Our corps congregations and programs are not what they once were numerically. Many are too far understrength to fight effectively. What should we do about this?

In some cases we might consider combining two struggling corps that are near each other, even though, as in the military, this is easier said than done when the corps involved have long histories of ministry and service to their communities. Or we might combine corps programs, as we have already done in many corps by folding Girl Guards, Sunbeams, and SAAC into Club 316's, or encourage two corps to combine their youth and music evening programs into a single program at one corps to raise its quality level.

In other cases we may have to end certain corps programs with long and storied histories, or even close some corps altogether. This is an emotionally wrenching process to say the least, and it would no doubt leave some corps members feeling like orphans. But doing nothing is the equivalent of moving around imaginary regiments on a war map. We might preserve the appearance of all being well, but we all know that the program or corps doesn't have the firepower to fight the battle, much less win.

Happily, we don't have to worry about losing the war because we know the battle is the Lord's and is in fact already won. But He has left it to us to prayerfully make the difficult decisions about our own ghost regiments.

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