Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training taught at Provider Chapel to 13th SC(E) chaplains and assistants

Story and photos by U.S. Army Sgt. Ryan Twist
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachemnt
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — The 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) out of Fort Hood, Texas, held an all 13th SC(E) Resiliency Counseling Training Conference for chaplains and chaplain’s assistants at the Provider Chapel Dec. 1 through Dec. 4 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

The training was to educate 13th SC(E) unit ministry teams in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training and Warrior/Chaplain Resiliency Training, said Master Sgt. Michael I. Bair, the command chaplain noncommissioned officer in charge for the 13th SC(E) and a Fredericksburg, Va., native.

“We brought all the chaplains and chaplains assistants in from all across Iraq so that we can give them a little bit of downtime,” said Bair. “During the downtime … (we) give them some tools to put into their tool chest to help them be more resilient and help their Soldiers do the same.”

I’m the senior chaplain assistant for the 13th SC(E) which means I provide mentoring training for all the chaplains and the assistants spread all across the country,” said Bair. “Any unit attached to the 13th SC(E) as a chaplain I provide coverage for.

“Chaplains can’t forget that they can’t go 100 mph all the time because we’re in this for the long haul,” said Bair. “This isn’t a sprint, so just walk.”

Chaplain Roy T. Walker 13th SC(E) Command Chaplain and a Elizabethtown, Ky., native, said the reason they wanted to do the training was because many chaplains work late hours. He said they try their best to take care of the Soldiers and they do this so often a lot of times they don’t stop to take care of themselves.

“We want to give the tools to recognize when their burning out,” said Walker. “We want to give them tools to also recognize when others are burning out.”

Next, they want to look at ASIST, because it is one of the leading forms of suicide intervention, he said.

“We want to make sure that everyone here recognizes signs and symptoms and we don’t want to assume that we all have some historical knowledge because we’re made up of guard, reserve and active,” said Walker. “What one of us may have had the others may have not.”

He said the training meets mission requirement by the 13th SC(E) commander. He said that the requirement is to be at least T2 trained, which is the basic level of training. He said the training allows the chaplains and chaplain’s assistants to recognize signs and symptoms of Suicide and be able to intervene at anytime.

“We can’t prevent individuals from opting from suicide, but what we can do is successfully intervene,” said Walker.

Train the Trainer Training is the next level, he said. T4 allows the chaplains or chaplain’s assistants to train others the signs and symptoms of suicide, he said. The master trainer is the final level and is when they have done many seminars and workshops that puts the individual ahead of everyone else based on experience, said Walker.

He said the chaplains and chaplain’s assistants have integrated in with the mental health community to work together and help Soldiers when needed.

Walker said if there is someone who has a spiritual issue or confidentiality issue that does not divulge anything they can go to the chaplains. He said if it is more of a clinical need then they encourage the individual to go to combat stress.

He said the chaplains and chaplain’s assistants have been very fortunate to be able to make that suggestion and most Soldiers go along with it.

The training they are learning will help them teach the Soldiers to be more resilient, he said. The teaching will help the chaplains and chaplain’s assistants watch other Soldiers habits and make sure they do not isolate themselves, said Walker.

He said the training they receive will help them be able to talk to the Soldiers that have put themselves in isolation and try to get them to talk about their feelings or what is on their mind.

“We draw them back,” said Walker. “We learn the training and we take it back to our units. We begin to tell them the very things we’ve learned.”

Lt. Col. James H. Finn, a chaplain with the 118th Multifunction Medical battalion out of Newington, Connecticut, said they are getting awareness and camaraderie from this training as well.

“It helps us get to know the other chaplains that are out in the field in different areas where our Soldiers might be,” said Finn. “So we can trust one another, network together as teams.”

He said by knowing other ministry teams helps to find out what’s going on in theater. He said by meeting them allows other chaplains or chaplain’s assistants to keep an eye on their Soldiers if they come across them. He said it also helps if they are experiencing the same problems at different Contingency Operation Locations, they can help each other out on how to deal with the situation.

“I think the most important thing is for people to trust their chaplains and trust their leadership,” said Finn. “If they don’t feel confident in their leadership that is the time to go and talk to either a chaplain or combat stress or somebody else you can trust.”

He said this training gives the chaplains and assistants peers to talk and consult with.

“That’s the most important thing from all levels, general down to the private need to communicate and if we’re not communicating then we’re affecting our own mission and impacting the Soldiers around us,” said Finn. “If one Soldier speaks out and their having problems, maybe another Soldier is thinking about hurting themselves or hurting somebody else.”


news photo
Cpt. Kerstin L. Hedlund, a chaplain and Sgt. Matthew F. Carpenter, a chaplain’s assistant, both with the 90th Sustainment Brigade out of Little Rock, Ark., 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) listens and reacts to a practice exercise during the Resiliency Counseling Training Conference at the Provider Chapel Dec. 1 through Dec. 4 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. Hedlund, a Fort Worth, Texas, native, and Carpenter, a Portales, N.M., native attended a training for all 13th SC(E) ministry teams learned Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training and Warrior/Chaplain Resiliency Training.
(U.S. Army photos by Sgt. Ryan Twist)