By Chaplain (Maj.) Todd Cheney and Sergeant First Class Brian Jones, Health Readiness Center of Excellence, Pastoral Ministry TeamMay 23, 2019
JBSA, Fort Sam Houston--The former Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State, Gen. (ret.) George C. Marshall, once famously said, "The soldier's heart, the soldier's spirit, the soldier's soul, are everything. Unless the soldier's soul sustains him, he cannot be relied on and will fail himself and his commander and his country in the end."
This is true for both the American soldier and the South Korean soldier. For this reason, the Department of Pastoral Ministry Training at the Health Readiness Center of Excellence deployed a mobile training team to the Republic of Korea, or ROK, to conduct combined joint religious support professional training for American and Republic of Korean armed forces serving on the peninsula.
The two-week Combat and Emergency Medical Ministry Course provides Army unit ministry teams and Air Force religious support teams with the critical pastoral skills required to support service members affected by combat exposure and related trauma. This intensive training took place from April 22 to May 3 in and around Camp Humphreys, South Korea.
During the first week, sixty students, to include twenty from the ROK Army, were introduced to trauma theory, trauma informed care, moral injury and other vital pastoral care best practices to enhance their religious support readiness as it relates to potential large scale combat operations.
The 8th Army Operations Chaplain, Maj. John Park, prepared religious support students at nearby Pyenongtaek medical treatment facility at Dankook University Hospital for the rigors, wounds and stress associated with combat and medical environments. This valuable training was unprecedented; chaplains and religious affairs specialists in Korea do not traditionally take part in holistic, interdisciplinary medical care.
The following week, the training culminated in a field training exercise at the ROK Army Special Warfare Center and School during which students were integrated into an infantry foot patrol and had to react to opposition force enemy contact and indirect fire as well as provide immediate medical buddy aid and religious support to casualties. They were also required to provide a hasty memorial ceremony for fallen comrades and execute a ramp ceremony on a Chinook UH-47 aircraft.
"The training was exceptional and timely," according to Chaplain (Col.) Chul Kim, the 8th Army Command Chaplain. "The ROK Army's Chaplain Corps is still developing its doctrine and religious support capabilities, so this was very valuable training," he added.
Chaplain (Cpt.) Yohann Lee, who is currently assigned to the ROK's 23rd Infantry Division, expressed appreciation for the training as well. "The training enabled me to grow to be spiritually available to my soldiers that may be combat casualties."
Pvt. 1st Class Eislee Rincon, who is assigned to the 70th Brigade Support Battalion, 210 Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, said that the training helped her as a Religious Affairs Specialist to better understand her duties, from advising her chaplain to caring for the wounded. "Knowing how to spiritually triage a wounded Soldier enables my chaplain to provide the best religious support according to a Soldier's religious preference and practices," said Rincon
"Readiness is the number one priority for the 8th Army, and this training was critical in helping us not only fight tonight but also provide religious support if hostilities break out tonight," explained Sgt. Maj. James Morris, the Religious Affairs Senior Non-commissioned officer for 8th Army.
The Pastoral Ministry Team believes that the soldier's soul is everything when it comes to defending freedom around the globe. 8th Army and ROK unit ministry teams exemplify this, and they are ready to defend and provide religious support for joint US-ROK interests when called upon.