Helping chaplains help themselves
August 25, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- At the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School, amid student-filled halls and breezeways, a quiet office with a few military personnel and one civilian serves as the Chaplain Corps' foundation for spiritual mentoring.
The quiet, easily overlooked office houses the Center for Spiritual Leadership.
In 2008, when it was obvious that chaplains, the Army's go-to corps for Soldiers with spiritual, moral and religious issues, had issues of their own and no official means of addressing them, the Army chief of chaplains dispatched Chaplain (Col.) Michael Dugal to stand up the Center for Spiritual Leadership. After completing the Army War College, Dugal came to Fort Jackson as the new center's director.
"The focus was to provide retreats for chaplains and chaplain assistants who were returning from war," he said. "Back then, we served as the chief's lead agency for spiritual care, development and formation for Unit Ministry Teams. We don't do retreats anymore. Now our mission is to deliver tailored pastoral products and programs to chaplains worldwide for the purpose of self care and spiritual resiliency."
Dugal said the center accomplishes this through a number of products and programs, several of which are secular. His office's free spaces are often packed with cases of self-help books and DVDs, some religious, some not.
"We provide religion-specific books for Christian, Jewish and Muslim chaplains because each faith group approaches self help in a specific way," Dugal said, "We have other resources that address different issues that any Soldier may use, not just chaplains."
Responsible for providing support materials Armywide, the CSL has distributed more than 35,000 resources in the last two years to active duty, National Guard and Army Reserve Unit Ministry Teams, Dugal said.
The center also participates in the Chaplain Annual Sustainment Training events. CAST, as it is known, is a symposium where UMTs from around the world meet to gather much-needed information and training guidance in the form of presentations and handouts. CSL has a representative at each CAST, where he or she sets up a booth and distribute resources, including books and flyers. Dugal was one of the featured speakers at the 2010 CAST events.
The CSL staff periodically gives mobile training as well, traveling to different installations to provide support. The CSL has supported the Spiritual Fitness Center at Fort Hood, Texas, as well as the TRADOC Human Dimension and the Army Chief of Staff's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness initiatives. Th staff uses video teleconferencing to collaborate with and support peers overseas and in war zones.
"The CSL Team supports the commandant in meeting the chief of chaplains' intention for UMTs' spiritual formation and development," Dugal said.
Editor's note: This is one of two articles about the unique centers that reside within the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School. Next week's article will focus on the Center for World Religions.