REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Members of the Army Materiel Command's ministry team gathered at command headquarters recently to learn from each other as they strive to provide the spiritual leadership needed by the Soldiers and employees they serve.
"This is the only time that all AMC chaplain sections are in one place together," said AMC Command Chaplain (Col.) Ken Godfrey."This three-day training effort allows us to synchronize religious support across the AMC global footprint to care for 60,000 civilians, 60,000 contractors and 3,000 military at our major subordinate commands, 23 depots, arsenals and plants, and many other locations across the globe. It means a lot to our ministry to be able to come together, and mentor, teach, support and encourage each other to provide good ministry wherever we are."About 30 chaplains and Religious Affairs NCOs from across the AMC enterprise as well as Redstone Arsenal and the 2nd Recruiting Brigade participated in the three-day Command Chaplain's Annual Training. The training included sessions on marriage and family relationships, providing religious support to dispersed locations, religious liberty and global religious support, among other topics. It included updates from the Army's Office of the Chief of Chaplains, and the Chaplain Center and School."The goal of the training is for our chaplains to go back to their commands energized to provide religious care for their people, and to have new or renewed skills," Godfrey said.In the opening session, AMC Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Allan Elliott encouraged the chaplains to use their training week as a way to reinvigorate their own spiritual resiliency."We get caught up in the day-to-day and truly forget what's really important. Your spiritual fitness -- as well as the spiritual fitness of all AMC employees and Soldiers -- is important because it attributes to resiliency, and is part of our culture and our values," Elliott said. "What you do for our Soldiers, you also do for our organization and for our Army."The value in the training, he said, is that the chaplains can learn from each as well as counsel each other and lift each other up. In turn, they can take the experience back to their major subordinate commands and use it to minister to their senior leadership as well as Soldiers and employees."God obligates you to minister to others. It's an obligation to minister to your senior leaders," Elliott said."Be observant and pick your opportunities. Make your presence known. Be supportive. Look for opportunities to help the leaders in your organization be more approachable and more encouraging to their workforce. Help employees be more engaged and to find value in their work. Help leaders to understand how to get all teams engaged in the process and connected to our priorities."
While spiritual resilience is often focused on a person's inner sense of wellbeing, it also includes a person's relationships with the world around them and especially with family members. Chaplains often spend time counseling employees on family relationships, Godfrey said. For that reason, marriage and family relationships was a key focus of the chaplain training.
"The most important characteristic in relationships is trust," Chaplain (Col.) Darin Nielson, command chaplain for the Communications-Electronics Command, told the chaplains during a marital counseling training session. "How do you build relationships? How do you stop doing things that destroy relationships?"
In marriage, friendship is essential. But, marriages can fall apart when the friendship is neglected, he said.
"In marriages that last, couples have grown the friendship. They have a deeper level of meaning, a sense of purpose in the relationship," Nielson said.
During the religious support segment of the training, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Snyder of the Research, Development and Engineering Command said it can be difficult for military chaplains to determine how to minister to large numbers of civilian employees, and especially when those employees are located in widely dispersed locations.
"Civilians do appreciate what we do and what we have to offer," he said. "Our goal is to support the mission, to be of benefit to the commander. To do that mission, our scope of practice is huge to include Soldiers, civilians and contractors, and to be prepared to assist anyone. We have to be a little more intentional to counsel and try to provide ministry."
The chaplains discussed how to assess needs when taking on a new assignment. They agreed that when a chaplain begins a new ministry assignment, they should take 30 to 90 days to evaluate the organization and to determine how to mold their ministry around the needs of the organization.
"We need to assess what is needed in the command where we are serving," Snyder said. "We need to be sensitive to employee needs and offer the ministry support they need."
Just as well-known author Dr. Gary Chapman introduced The Five Love Languages as a way for couples to understand each other, he also developed The Five Languages of Appreciation at Work, which that Chaplain (Maj.) Mark Sedwick is planning to introduce to Surface Deployment and Distribution Command employees through a four-hour leadership class.
"There are many challenges in the workplace," Snyder said. "We can help employees work through these kinds of things through our ministry and, in turn, improve the workplace and productivity."