Chaplains qualified to provide more than spiritual guidance

By David VergunJune 4, 2013

Chaplains are highly qualified counselors who can assist Soldiers with a variety of problems that may or may not have anything at all to do with matters of the soul. Here, Chaplain (Capt.) Ronnie Irwin, 501st Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 3, 2013) -- Most people know that chaplains provide for the religious needs of Soldiers and their families, irrespective of religious or faith background.

But they also are available to assist Soldiers and families with a variety of secular problems as well.

For instance, if a Soldier has been the victim of a sexual assault or harassment, or has had suicidal thoughts, chaplains are one of the first persons that Soldiers can turn to for help.

"One of the main reasons Soldiers might want to speak to a chaplain is because what is said between them will be held in strict confidentiality," said Col. Dallas E. Speight, an Army chaplain with the Soldier and Family Ministry. He said all chaplains receive training in areas of confidentiality and are bound to honor that commitment.

Chaplains also receive training in pastoral care and pastoral counseling. Speight said this training enables them to help those who might be experiencing domestic violence or relationship problems.

Chaplains also work closely with behavioral health and other medical resources to ensure the best care and information is provided to those who come to them for assistance, he said.

Speight, who has been an Army chaplain for three decades, said today's chaplains are better equipped now to handle a range of issues than at any time he can remember. They are trained to be sensitive and effective listeners without alienating Soldiers and families who come to them with different religious backgrounds or no religious background at all.

When it comes to matters of the heart and soul, chaplains are often the first people Soldiers turn to, their traditional role.

Chaplains are the "first-line religious support leaders for Soldiers and families," Speight said. Besides providing "theologically integrated pastoral care and pastoral counseling, they also have resources to strengthen one's faith and relationship skills."

In addition to religious services and Bible studies, Speight said chaplains lead Strong Bonds events, which are designed to enhance relationship skills for single Soldiers, couples and families.

Strong Bonds is also a tool for commanders, as the program is designed to help build resilience in Soldiers and families to better enable them to cope with stress and hardships.

In many ways, there's a tie-in between physical, mental and emotional needs and those that are spiritual, Speight added.

Speight, a reservist who has been on active duty for six years, said chaplains in the reserve component are as trained to help as are their active counterparts. The only thing a Soldier needs to do is to ask for assistance, he said.

"Our door is always open," he said.

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