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Corry Station’s Grimaldi Community: A Music-fueled Safe Space

12 February 2021

From Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Neo B. Greene III

Cmdr. John Ismach-Eastman, a chaplain assigned to Naval Air Station Pensacola Corry Station, Pensacola, Florida, has been creating alternative programs to help new-accession students better handle stress and support their mental health.
PENSACOLA, Fla. - Cmdr. John Ismach-Eastman, a chaplain assigned to Naval Air Station Pensacola Corry Station, Pensacola, Florida, has been creating alternative programs to help new-accession students better handle stress and support their mental health.

Complementing the programs that currently exist, Eastman has revived a 50-year-old program in an effort to give servicemembers one more tool they can use.

The program is the creation of a group, called the Grimaldi Community, which uses the principles of music therapy to let servicemembers talk and discover their feelings in a safe, relaxed environment. Eastman and the Sailors currently in the group believe the initiative is an easy way for servicemembers to seek help, or help themselves, without having to enter a formal program.

The decision to use music as a tool to help servicemembers was originally created by Chaplain Don Harris, a retired Navy captain who founded the Chaplains Religious Enrichment Development Operation (CREDO) in 1971. Harris’ goal was to aid Vietnam veterans returning home from combat. Now his methods are being used to assist students with whatever struggles they have experienced, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and in their new lives as servicemembers.

“It’s good to talk about both the positive and negative things in a person’s life, and this program helps people get to that point,” said Eastman. “When Don worked with the Vietnam servicemembers who were scarred physically and mentally, music helped them open up and heal. I remember he told me there was a point in time when they were waiting on this song ‘Here Comes the Sun’ by The Beatles to be released, and he said they used that song to look forward to a brighter future. ‘Lean on Me’ was another big favorite. There ended up being a whole catalog of songs they would use. Just one song can be thought-provoking or even helpful to a whole group of people.”

“Music therapy incorporates techniques such as listening to, reflecting on and creating music to improve a client’s health and well-being,” according to Psychology Today. Immersing people in music allows them to more easily express themselves, identify and process difficult experiences, develop social and communication skills, or simply find emotional release.

Cryptologic Technician (Technical) Seaman Ethan Fletcher and Cryptologic Technician (Networking) Seaman Nickolas Fults, Navy information warfare students attached to Information Warfare Training Command (IWTC) Corry Station who are currently attending the program, say the it has been beneficial, even in the short time they’ve been participating.

“I think the music aspect of this program is a great attractor,” said Fults. “There is so much music that speaks to people; it helps open people up to talking about their feelings or giving them an outlet to open up. There are a lot of people who have trouble opening up, and this is an easier way of connecting people through things they can more easily feel. The music is like a catalyst to helping me open up, but we also get a feeling of comradery through this.”

Music can be used to encourage emotional expression, relieve stress and symptoms of anxiety, strengthen coping skills and boost a servicemembers overall mental and emotional health. In the Grimaldi Community, these benefits are broadened by sharing them between open-minded servicemembers.

“People can use music to say things that they might not feel comfortable saying, or don’t know how to say, in any other circumstance,” shared Fletcher. “It feels good that there are people who I know I can relate to, or who have similar messages that I do, who I can connect with by sharing just a song. There’s a lot of darkness in the world, and some of that we can relate to with a certain song, or we can relate to or uplift others with a different song that counteracts that darkness.”

While the group is available to any individual that wants to join, Eastman says the group is welcome to all and participation is at every person’s own pace. With a more informal approach to self-help and expression, the goal is to provide a safe space for those involved.

“The majority of people don’t go into any program and feel comfortable right away,” said Eastman. “This is all purely voluntary, but if you join us, you’ll be welcome and received by open-minded people. We want to emphasize that, while music is therapeutic, this is more than just that aspect. This is servicemembers coming together to create a CREDO-like community where we all get something positive for ourselves and for each other. We don’t come in here with an agenda. There is no planned theme other than the songs that these people pick to review or tying something back to a song that we heard before. If we hear a message that we can all agree on or want to go further into, we dive into it.”

Fletcher and Fults say that students and servicemembers in general should take advantage of the program and use it to help them in their personal lives and careers. Whether it is for venting feelings, helping others or connecting with other people through a different medium, the Grimaldi Community looks to exist for the servicemembers’ benefit.

“Everyone has their issues, even on their best days,” added Fults. “Anything that can help with those issues, I see as a good thing. This is a very safe, relaxed environment where you can come and enjoy the music you love and even if you come to be a part of this program and don’t say a word, you can still end up leaving having gotten something out of it.”

The community gets its name from the famed clown Joseph Grimaldi (1778-1837) who behind the make-up suffered from deep bouts of depression and alcoholism.

The Grimaldi Community currently meets every Tues 0830-0930 in the Corry Chapel located onboard Corry Station, Pensacola, Florida. No appointments are needed, and walk-ins are always welcome. For more information, call: (850) 452-6376.

IWTC Corry Station, as part of the Center for Information Warfare Training (CIWT), provides a continuum of training to Navy and joint service personnel that prepares them to conduct information warfare across the full spectrum of military operations.

With four schoolhouse commands, a detachment, and training sites throughout the United States and Japan, CIWT trains over 22,000 students every year, delivering trained information warfare professionals to the Navy and joint services. CIWT also offers more than 200 courses for cryptologic technicians, intelligence specialists, information systems technicians, electronics technicians, and officers in the information warfare community.

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