USARAF chaplains focus on combat, operational stress during Namibia symposium
August 31, 2011
VICENZA, Italy - U.S. Army Africa (USARAF) Deputy Command Chaplain (LTC) Clyde Scott and Operations Chaplain Assistant Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Eye along with more than 25 chaplains and assistant chaplains of the Namibian Defence Force (NDF) participated in the Namibia Chaplain Symposium Aug. 22-25.
At the opening ceremony, Brig. Gen. Karel C. Ndjoba, Chief of Staff for Human Resources, NDF, applauded the USARAF/Namibian partnership demonstrated by this event.
"The [NDF] chaplain service is facing the challenge of operational support services; therefore, it is critical that issues of combat and operational stress (COS) trauma counseling and pastoral care are being addressed in this symposium," Ndjoba said. "[Our] Chaplains need to empower members who experience challenges during operations [so I want to] assure the U.S. and Department of Defense that its initiative in this approach toward combat stress has come at a time when we need it most," he said.
USARAF Chaplains have collaborated with the AMEDD Center and School to identify a non-therapeutic approach in keeping with the chaplain's role in Combat Stress.
The purpose of this event was to increase awareness of NDF Chaplains and leaders to the challenges of Combat and Operational Stress associated with deployment to peacekeeping operations.
"Chaplains and assistants enthusiastically participated in scenario-based personal learning exercises and role playing as they demonstrated their understanding of the concepts discussed, Scott said. "For example, through practical exercise we stressed how much more difficult it becomes for a commander and Soldiers to complete a mission when Soldiers are lost to combat operational stress. We then reviewed resources available in the community to help Soldiers return to duty," he said.
At the end of each day, practical exercises were introduced to re-emphasize the importance of a holistic approach to caring for Soldiers experiencing COS.
The most powerful practical exercise was the NDF chaplains and assistants carrying a comrade.
Scott said the exercise is designed to show the effect of losing soldiers to COSC. They start out with a group of 8-10 soldiers carrying one soldier, then as they move around the area soldiers fall out until the group is left with only two soldiers carrying the one. The 'commander' then begins directing 'soldiers' back to the unit after having seen a chaplain or behavioral health expert. "This exercise emphasizes the importance of getting help when experiencing COS and the impact on the unit when soldiers are unable to return to duty," Scott said.
The practical exercise was critical in addressing the professional developmental needs of the chaplain assistants composing the largest percentage of the NDF chaplaincy, according to Sgt. 1st Class Eye, who remarked that "this was the best participation of any group I have worked with in Africa."
At the end of the day, consensus was the symposium was an overwhelming success.
"I attribute much of the success of this symposium to the rapport developed through previous engagements with the NDF and the establishment of 'a relationship of trust,'" Scott said. The USARAF Chaplain team came with a better grasp of the issues that really concern the NDF, the cultural dynamics at work, and what it takes to facilitate optimal communication.