UMATILLA, Ore. – The striking mixture of desert florae, rolling bluffs, and wide-open landscape helped create a welcoming setting for the Oregon National Guard’s Chaplain Annual Sustainment Training, from April 29 to May 1, 2022.
More than 35 Chaplains and Religious Affairs Specialists from across the state and region gathered at Camp Umatilla, Oregon for three days of training, designed to promote team-building, career proficiency, and enhance professional development.
Outlining the Religious Support mission, Chaplain [Col.] Jacob Scott, Oregon State Support Chaplain, opened the training weekend by detailing many of the attributes needed for the faithful care for Oregon’s Soldiers, Airmen, and their families.
“When we define our work and our broader mission of outreach, it’s found in the acronym “HOPE,” said Scott, describing the abbreviation. “Holistic Health, Ongoing Ministry, Professionalism and Education as the foundation. It’s important to remember that as members of the Army, that to accomplish our religious support team mission – our members are ‘Fit to Fight: Body and Soul’.”
As each attendee went around the room, giving a brief personal introduction, they were later joined by Maj. Gen. Michael Stencel, Adjutant General, Oregon, during a live teleconference address, scheduled as part of the CAST opening session, where members participated in a question and answer session.
“In terms of our strategic priorities of being ‘Ready, Relevant, and Resilient’, it’s really that resilience part that the Chaplains Corp has the biggest opportunity to make a difference,” said Stencel, outlining the overall posture for the National Guard and its members. “In reality, a really strong argument can be made that resilience is the hardest of our three priorities.”
Discussing several topics revolving around the ever-changing mission challenges and Guard members’ commitment to balancing military and civilian employment, Stence emphasized that trust is the defining characteristic that every soldier and airman must possess to accomplish the assignments given to them.
“It’s building that culture – that resilient culture of equity, dignity, respect for all people, which in turn, fosters growth and learning,” he reiterated to the group, touching on the key foundations for RST members attending the training. “This foundation in faith that’s so many of us look to; it’s incredibly important for us as an organization to have the highest moral compass.”
This opened an energetic question and answer period where Maj. Gen. Stencel fielded queries ranging from leadership, future missions, budgets, new fitness testing requirements, and post Covid-19 training expectations.
Inquiring about Stencel’s remarks on personal growth, Religious Affairs Specialist Cpl. Jonathon Salter, assigned to the 1249th Engineer Battalion, asked, “Sir, what kind of questions do you ask yourself – as a leader, for leadership development?”
Almost without hesitation, Stence accentuated, “Leaders are Learners. Whether that’s formal education, secondary education, or going down range on deployments and facing some of the unanticipated challenges presented in those environments.”
With the first day’s classroom work complete, the training setting shifted outdoors, where RST members took advantage of a warm spring afternoon during a team-building 5K Ruck around the Camp Umatilla. The group received a briefing from Oregon National Guard Environmental Branch Chief Jim Arnold, who described the history of the former Umatilla Army Ordnance Depot.
“Prior to WWII, this site was selected because it was far enough away from the Pacific coastline from sea attacks, yet close enough to the major ports and railroad lines,” said Arnold. “When we head out, you’ll see where 1,001 of these ‘Igloos’ (ammunition storage bunkers) were all built prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor.”
The Ruck served to elevate several important themes for the weekend. “We need to remember that as Soldiers, readiness begins with being ‘Fight to Fit’,” said Chaplain Scott, as members donned backpacks and headed out towards the foothills.
In drawing a similar parallel, Scott’s emphasis also drew on enhancing the group’s spiritual resolution during their ruck.
“There is purpose and meaning in participating in physical activities together,” he said. “My vision for the Oregon National Guard Chaplains Corp is that all of our religious support team members are living reminders of HOPE.”
After an hour, when the group reached a bluff overlooking the blooming spring basin, Chaplain [Capt.] Patrice Robichaux, led the “Word of the Day” to those gathered on the hillside, selecting a fitting scriptural passage about walking with faith.
“Though oftentimes we walk in the darkness, unsure of the path we’re on and where it will take us – we carry lantern or light, allowing us to live that moment,” she said, describing a recent spiritual interaction with a fellow veteran . “We often cannot see the next step, yet faith carries us beyond the darkness with every step we take into the light.”
Bringing reassurance to service members and a committed source of support allows Chaplains a channel of connection with service members and often their families. During the second day of training, the Oregon National Guard chaplains conducted specialized training in spiritual resiliency and traumatic event management, focusing on aiding recovery following a traumatic event. Religious Affairs Specialists conducted Unit Ministry Team (UMT) training scenarios; moving Chaplains through the Military Operations in an Urban Terrain (MOUT) site at Camp Umatilla.
US Army Chaplain [Maj.] Jesse Adkinson, an instructor assigned to the US Army Institute of Religious Leadership (USA-IRL) at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, presented a lecture on stress-related matters with the Army National Guard Chaplains. The major topics in trauma, traumatic stress, moral injury, spiritual injury, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) were broken down into two working teams on each subject within discussion groups, thus allowing for interactive and comparative discussions.
In discussing the topic of spiritual injury, Adkinson referred to the Army’s Field Manual on Holistic Health and Fitness. “FM 7-22… Spiritual readiness develops the personal qualities a person needs in times of stress, hardship, and tragedy,” he said, giving the topic a reference point. “What questions might you encounter when one of your service members has suffered a spiritual injury during the course of combat?”
Speaking for her group, Robichaux said that spiritual injuries vary nearly every time on an individual experience.
“Spiritual injury in an existential crisis preceded by a violation of our deeply held spiritual beliefs. It may change our relationship or view of God and result in an imbalance of concrete beliefs.”
The feedback allowed the overall group to consider a variety of circumstances, to which Adkinson said the relationship between a spiritual injury and a moral injury is often difficult to distinguish.
“Is there a diagram where one overlaps another…it’s hard to say because it’s one of those ‘Yes-Maybe-So,’ situations,” he detailed, touching on the places where religious and philosophical examinations can be the most problematic and often paradoxical.
While the Chaplains were evaluating these complex questions, the Religious Affairs Specialists were conducting field training on operational security. They were joined late in the day by the Chaplains to do hands-on drills, integrating with force protection as UMT’s in hostile threat situations.
Each Chaplain was moved from a hospitable interaction with a native tribal leader, to quickly coming under hostile fire, requiring to be moved quickly from station to station and evacuated to ground transportation. A cold and heavy dose of rain only added to the tasks, yet once again, reinforced to each group, the crucial need to trust and support one another.
Concluding the day, Army National Guard Sgt. Maj. Jody Courts, the Religious Affairs Sergeant Major for the National Guard Bureau, addressed some of the challenges within the career field while making observations about the long weekend of training.
“The work in the field you just completed reinforces the model of Unit Ministry Teams. Remember you are a team, UMT’s are critical – not only with supporting the overall Army mission but each other,” he restated. “You back each other up, you make each other stronger.”
|Date Posted:||05.07.2022 22:44|
|Location:||UMATILLA, OR, US|
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