For the first time since the beginning of overseas contingency operations, every 75th Ranger Regiment chaplain and religious affairs specialist gathered together from January 17th to 24th for training, competition, and fellowship.
Since October 19th, 2001, the 75th Ranger Regiment has had at least one Battalion continuously deployed to combat. In that time, tens of thousands of Rangers have stood in harm's way, protecting our nation and national interests. Wherever you find deployed Rangers, you will find a Ranger Chaplain and Ranger Religious Affairs Specialist.
The demands of deployment and ministry have always limited the Unit Ministry Teams' ability to conduct military training. The only solution was to bring the training to the deployed environment. On January 17th, 2020, UMTs of the 75th Ranger Regiment consolidated on Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
"The Regimental Religious Support training helped sustain the chaplains and religious support personnel in their demanding role of caring for the soul of the 75th Ranger Regiment," Chaplain (Maj.) Erik Alfsen, 75th Ranger Regiment Regimental Chaplain, said. "Our goal as a UMT is to invest in our people and cultivate our community and for us to care for our people, we've got to take better care of our UMTs."
The three-day training incorporated a number of seminars covering topics such as moral injury, resource management, marriage and family programs, coaching as a model for ministry, pastoral identity, self-care, professional development, and operational religious support.
In additional to lectures and discussions, UMTs participated in a challenging, timed competition, involving medical trauma lanes, stress shoots, sermon preparation, emergency counseling, and a variety of other physical events.
Col. Keith Croom, U.S. Army Special Operations Command Chaplain, served as one of the keynote speakers and senior mentors for the event.
"Clarity of your identity is vital to authenticity in your ministry," said Crooom, as he encouraged UMTs to have a clear understanding of who they were and what their calling was.
"This was the most meaningful training opportunity I've had as a 56M," Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Steadman, Religious Affairs Specialist with 2nd Ranger Battalion said. "I was able to discover new ways to communicate, and new ways to care for the amazing people we serve. But it goes even deeper than that. I walked away with a better sense of how to care for myself and my family."
Col. Todd S. Brown, Commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment, summed up the importance of this event for the organization's unit ministry teams.
"There is no doubt that our UMTs have the pulse of the Regiment. Our commanders look to them for open and honest feedback. Our Chaplains and Religious Affairs Specialists are a crucial part of the culture of resiliency we foster in the 75th Ranger Regiment," Brown said. "They have been able to sustain the moral, spiritual, and relational health of our Rangers for nearly 20 years of continuous combat. Their ability to recognize issues and advise the commander is key. Our Ranger UMT's keep the pulse of the Regiment."