Story and photos by Sgt. 1st Class Andy Yoshimura, USACAPOC(A) Public Affairs Office
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- An earthquake hits a coastal town in Azerbaijan, causing devastation to the normal daily routine of its citizens. During the disaster, a mosque is forced to shut down due to damages sustained to its western wall. The result--the locals are upset and unrest sets in. They fight amongst themselves, trying to figure out where they can worship since overcrowding is now an issue at the nearby mosques.
These are just some of the many situations chaplains from the U.S. Army Reserve and the Canadian military dealt with during the Combined Religious Area Advisement Training, here at the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School.
Hosted by the U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) Chaplains Office, this event marked the first time chaplains from both countries trained with each other outside their normal duties as spiritual advisors. They spent five days working on different scenarios that they might come across during overseas operations.
Religious Area Analysis is part of the U.S. Army chaplain's doctrine which enables them to research and disseminate analyzed information while advising the operation commanders.
"When we train as chaplains, we have a dual role as an internal and external religious advisement," said Chaplain (Cpt.) Elizabeth Léclair, the Family Life Chaplain and trainer with USACAPOC(A). "Internal are your religious services which what most Soldiers see. Another role is external religious advisement for the commanders."
"The Canadian chaplains are more pastoral. Their roles is more of a 'shepherd in the flock.' They want to get more up-to-speed on what we are doing on the external side," added Léclair.
The Canadian chaplains were a mix of different services from different provinces. They traveled south to the school house's Simulation Cell where they teamed up with their American counterparts to train off of their doctrine.
"The idea is that going forward we realize that the interoperability piece is becoming more and more important and it is important for us to come together to train and understand our command ground," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Leslie Dawson, Canadian Army Command Chaplain.
"For our chaplains, they are learning the whole analysis piece around the religious area assessment. We also want to learn how our counterparts, here in the U.S., do religious area assessments and religious leader engagements," added Dawson.
Dawson also felt that it was a productive and interesting educational process between both countries.
For Chaplain (Cpt.) Lauren Nofsinger of the 351st Civil Affairs Command out of Moffett Field, California, she felt that working alongside the Canadians was very realistic to what they might see overseas.
"Training with the Canadians has been fascinating! So many of our operation is multi-national, so learning how the Canadians function and being aware of those differences and being able to communicate between the differences has been helpful," said Nofsinger.
"We also were able to pass off each other's knowledge with different experiences of deployment. So that has been fruitful," added Nofinger.
The trainers at USACAPOC(A) foresee a future of a continued working relationship between the two countries.
"Who knows what conflicts we'll see in the future but we will see them more and more," said Léclair. "They [the chaplains] are here to learn. They take it seriously and they are fun to work with."