By Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Timothy K. Bedsole, Sr.March 9, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Feb. 24 saw the Fort Rucker Chaplains meeting with local religious leaders to train on providing ministry to military families.
Eighteen ministers representing local congregations met to receive the training on current issues shaping ministry to military families. The work supports the effort to build readiness and resiliency into the Army Aviation community through the Army's Enduring Personal Readiness and Resiliency operations order.
The order directs commanders and leaders to utilize resources within the local on-post and off-post community to promote a healthy "environment of trust." An example of the resources listed in the operation is "faith-based organizations" who support Soldiers, Army civilians and families.
That is what the chaplains of Fort Rucker did in inviting these ministers whose congregations are often filled with military members from Fort Rucker, the U.S. Army Reserve and the Alabama National Guard.
Chaplain (Maj.) Jonathan Entrekin provided a short overview of how Soldiers are affected by what is called moral injury. After defining moral injury, he covered how to recognize it among Soldiers returning from deployments and may now attend local churches.
Chaplain Entrekin stated moral injury often results in isolation after trust is lost in moral authority. To restore this trust after the injury, pastors may serve as "facilitators of moral repair" through their use of religious rituals.
Chaplain (Maj.) James Pennington, the family life chaplain, offered a review of the 2016 Blue Star Family Lifestyle Survey, and used its findings as a launching point to discuss current issues affecting military families. This survey, representing 8,300 respondents including military spouses, active duty member, veterans and their immediate family members, identifies top military issues facing military families.
For each issue Pennington presented recommendations to effectively address those issues. For example, one of the findings states that 72 percent of military spouses "feel the current OPTEMPO exerts an unacceptable level of stress on a healthy work/family life."
Pennington provided the religious leaders recommendations, such as workshops on enhancing a healthy work-life balance, or adopting deployed Soldiers, and intentionally reaching out to the families of deployed Soldiers.
I spoke about the need to understand religious accommodations as part of building strength in the military. Soldiers who freely exercise their faith serve as an example to other countries on addressing religious differences, provide for expression of faith, and do so without violence or discrimination.
Army Regulation 600-20, Army Command Policy, states "The Army places a high value on the rights of its Soldiers to observe tenets of their respective religions," and in doing so increases the sense of cohesion, morale and good order. All of these attributes contribute to readiness and resiliency and build strength in our communities.
One of the attendees, Reverend John Granger, is the director of missions for the Coffee Baptist Association, which supports over 49 churches -- many of them filled with military congregants. He expressed his appreciation in "making contacts with other leaders in the military community," and he greatly appreciated the help with the issues affecting military members today. He stated that in one mission church he pastors, "around one-fourth of the people are military or veterans," and they deal with the issues talked about at the training.
He said he appreciates the friendship he has with chaplains and the connections he has enjoyed with Fort Rucker over the last 25 years.
Chaplain (Col.) Dean Bonura, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and garrison chaplain, welcomed the group to Fort Rucker and stated his intent to continue the relationship with local religious groups as a way of fortifying the spiritual fitness of our Soldiers, civilians and Family members in order to support readiness and resiliency.