USARAF chaplains highlight combat stress, suicide prevention during seminar in Namibia
May 8, 2013
Stress from combat and constant operations has been a bane of soldiering since the advent of organized warfare.
Recently, U.S. Army Africa's Chap. (Col.) Jonathan McGraw and Sgt 1st Class Ryan Cook presented a week-long seminar addressing the affects of combat and operational stress as well as suicide prevention.
McGraw and Cook worked with eight chaplains and 18 chaplain's assistants in Windhoek, Namibia at the request of the Namibian Defense Forces.
According to NDF Chief of Chaplains, Lt. Col. Nangula Kathima, suicide among troops is a growing challenge as is combat stress.
"We very much appreciate the suicide prevention and combat stress training," Kathima said. "The concepts and practical exercises were well presented during the event."
Though internal strife in Namibia hasn't taken place for more than two decades, NDF troops have participated in United Nations peacekeeping missions in South Sudan, Liberia, and most recently in Sudan.
"There are many NDF personnel who have survived the struggle for independence here, and as a result, instances of chronic PTSD behaviors and combat stress issues are more prevalent in senior soldiers," McGraw said.
Cook said because of these struggles, NDF chaplains and assistants expressed concern of suicides and passion killings on the rise in NDF forces, and the need for a suicide prevention program.
"We provided an overview of suicide prevention with extended open discussion of warning signs, risk factors and care plans," Cook said. "We discussed cultural differences both military and social between the perception of suicide in Namibia and the U.S. The last event of the day involved each chaplain and assistant presenting a suicide prevention briefing to their small group.
Work books provided to attendees along with other leave behind training materials will provide a lasting capability for NDF chaplains and assistants to train their units in COSC and suicide prevention. The electronic copies of the material will allow NDF to modify the curriculum to fit the needs of their forces.
"We modified our training to give the NDF Chaplains and Assistants a 12-hour block of instruction on identifying symptoms and behaviors of suicide," Cook said.
USARAF chaplains' goal is to build NDF's capability, and help them establish an NDF-wide suicide prevention training program.
"We will be able to pass on the information on how to indentify symptoms and signs of someone who is suffering from combat stress or someone who is thinking about ending their life," Kathima said. "As a result of this training, we will be able to conduct briefings for our commanders and seniors leaders, and naturally use the training to help our soldiers and their families," he said.