KYIV, Ukraine -- Chaplains have a pivotal role to play in any nation’s armed forces. While providing spiritual guidance is at the core of the Chaplaincy, they are sage advisors and purveyors of wisdom. As a doctor or medic might stitch up a Soldier’s physical wounds, a Chaplain tends to a Soldier’s mental and spiritual health.
“Professional chaplains help our soldiers to protect their greatest gift, their humanity,” said Father Andriy Zelinskyy, Deputy Head of the Department of Military Chaplaincy.
Even though an established Chaplaincy is relatively new in Ukraine there are already a number of experienced Ukrainian Chaplains due to ongoing conflicts in the east, but more is needed to properly prepare new Chaplains for service.
“We don't have a long lasting professional tradition of military chaplaincy in our country and it’s not easy to do it in the post-soviet society. The Armed Forces and the Church are the institutions which still enjoy the highest level of trust in our society, but the attitude can`t substitute for properly functioning institutions,” said Zelinskyy.
By contrast the United States Military has a very long history of Chaplains in its ranks. Chaplains have served in the U.S. Armed Forces since nearly its inception and was among the first branches created by George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Task Force Illini’s Unit Ministry Team are finding ways to provide assistance.
“The most important way I see us assisting Ukraine is developing a standardized process for the training of its Chaplains,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Vincent Lambert, Chaplain for Task Force Illini.
Lambert said this can be best accomplished by an exchange of best practices as well as sharing the U.S. Army’s internal training processes. Through this process of collaboration both sides stand to benefit from a partnership.
“Seeing a nation that has recently earned its independence and its passion to maintain it is quite enlightening for me. I am struck by the patriotism of our Armed Forces Ukraine Chaplain counterparts. Being able to take part in such a mission and to witness it firsthand is a great honor and something I will always remember,” said Lambert.
Task Force Illini is the command element of Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine, which is responsible for training, advising, and mentoring the Ukrainian cadre at Combat Training Center-Yavoriv, Ukraine in order to improve Armed Forces Ukraine’s training capacity and defense capabilities.