Chaplains train to support deployed service members
Story and Photos by Spc. Michael Camacho
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Army and Air Force chaplains and their assistants, from Joint Base Balad, Iraq, attended a monthly career-development course to better ready themselves to aid as spiritual counselors, March 5 at Provider Chapel at JBB.
The training focused on pastoral counseling and was led by guest speaker Maj. Terry Romine, the family-life chaplain with the 3rd Infantry Division headquartered at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, and one of three family-life chaplains currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Pastoral counseling is an integration of pastoral training with behavioral health, said Romine, a Hoxie, Ark., native. The idea is to give chaplains what they need to help Soldiers find the type of help they are seeking, he said.
The training is designed to enhance their knowledge and to teach them new techniques for assisting Soldiers seeking help in the deployed environment, said Lt. Col. Garry Losey, deputy command chaplain with the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Chicago native.
Family life is a specialized career field, which requires a master's degree in education, said Losey. The chaplain-to-chaplain training expands their understanding using skills from the family-life focus, which emphasizes the full spectrum of the Soldiers' life and well-being, he said.
"We're training our chaplains who are not family-life qualified, to give them better skill sets in how to counsel, how to work with clients … we want to better meet the needs of our Soldiers," he said. "They are bringing their knowledge, their education … so that we may be better equipped to help."
Romine said research has shown that Soldiers prefer to consult with chaplains as their first source of professional help, due to the security of the chaplain corps' strict confidentiality policy.
"We want chaplains to be able to have the skills that can help Soldiers work through personal problems," he said.
These problems may arise from issues at work, sadness, depression, anger, grief, marital or relationship stress, or any other major factor that affects them negatively, said Romine.
"Often it's a path," he said. "They see the chaplain if they're having some issues, and the chaplain can recommend they see behavioral health."
Romine said Soldiers can be hesitant to seek help, which is why it is important for chaplains to always remain capable of understanding their clients and provide a confidential means to express their worries and concerns.
"We want to relate to the Soldier," he said. "We want to connect, we want to attend and we want to pay attention to what they're feeling and saying, so they will feel comfortable and safe talking to us."
Romine said there is a major concern among chaplains, of the heightened stress factors facing Soldiers separated from family and loved ones in a combat environment.
"We want to be able to offer a place for Soldiers to deal with that and have a place to talk about it," he said. "That helps to reduce their stress, or find coping mechanisms to deal with stress."
The chaplain corps has made it their mission to aid service members overseas with counseling and training, as well as spiritual and moral support, said Losey.
Both Army and Air Force chaplains from units around JBB regularly attend the monthly training, to better serve their respective branches.
"This is really a joint event between the Army and the Air Force, where we get training on how to touch the lives of Soldiers and Airmen," he said.
Losey said the 13th SC(E) has dedicated its chaplain corps to the mental and spiritual support of service members deployed in Iraq.
"They will have the best (counseling) we can give them to help them through their time here," he said, "to get them back home not only physically safe, but emotionally and mentally prepared."
Army and Air Force chaplains from units all over Joint Base Balad, Iraq, gather during a monthly chaplain's training class March 5 to discuss techniques to aid the service members they support.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael Camacho)