June 10, 2014
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Hawaii - For the last 25 years, chaplains and chaplains' assistants throughout U.S. Army Pacific have come together annually to participate in some devotion, prayer and like all Soldiers, training.
More than 80 combined USARPAC chaplains and chaplains' assistants attended the Chaplaincy Annual Sustainment Training (CAST) held at the Joseph Estabrook Chapel on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe, Hawaii, from June 5-6.
During the two-day CAST session, USARPAC's chaplains and their chaplain assistants participated in training that taught the unit ministry teams current religious services and service multiplier techniques. The training was developed and sponsored by the chief of chaplains. This year's theme was "Religious support in a dynamic Army."
"Our Chaplaincy Annual Sustainment Training gives us all a chance to learn from one another," said Chaplain (Col.) Michael Dugal, USARPAC command chaplain. "Not only do we get to learn new material, but we also get an opportunity to interact with one another. One, it's important for UMTs to develop bonds with one another, but two, it's also important that we're all conveying the same messages throughout the Pacific."
Dugal said that this year the CAST session will focus on religious engagements, ethics, sexual harassment/assault response and prevention, and suicide prevention.
USARPAC commanding general, Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, was the guest speaker for the opening event. He recognized the importance of USARPAC's UMTs and thanked them for their services throughout the Pacific region before they continued their training.
"Our chaplains and chaplains' assistants who make up USARPAC's unit ministry teams are very important," said Brooks. "As we come out of years of conflict and head down a road of uncertainty for our Army, it is our chaplains and their assistants who will make a difference. You all provide us with more than just religious teachings, but strength and resiliency that keep our Soldiers going during these uncertain times."
While the training was important to the chaplains and their assistants, they also took the time to pay special honors to their top noncommissioned officer and junior enlisted Soldier. Brooks, Dugal and Sgt. Maj. Cassandra Tribune, USARPAC command chaplain senior enlisted adviser, recognized the USARPAC's Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of Year and presented them with Army Commendation Medals.
"Being the USARPAC's Chaplain Assistant NCO of the Year is a very humbling experience," said Sgt. Debra Stokes, a chaplain assistant assigned to Headquarters Support Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 25th Infantry Division. "There are a number of great chaplain assistants throughout USARPAC. I can't let this honor go to my head. Just being a chaplain's assistant and helping Soldiers in need is rewarding enough."
USARPAC's UMTs separated into smaller groups to discuss issues commonly seen across the Pacific.
"I'm glad to be here, sitting and talking with everyone really puts what we do into perspective," said Spc. Luke Grant, junior enlisted chaplain assistant Soldier or the Year, assigned to 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. "Just listening to everyone's stories helps me to appreciate what we do more and more."
While the two-training concluded, the group of chaplains and their assistants utilized the opportunity to pray and receive the word, but in the end they will go back to their units with newfound knowledge, better equipped to help Soldiers and their Families.