ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – The First Army Command Chaplain directorate brought together about 60 senior chaplains and noncommissioned officers for a symposium to foster teamwork and readiness. Attendees include state chaplains from the Army Reserve and National Guard, along with religious affairs NCOs.
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Nathan Kline, First Army Division East chaplain, explained, “We brought them in to identify more effective ways we can partner with them to meet their training needs. Our partnership helps prepare them for readiness and mobilization, and to satisfy the geographic combatant commanders’ needs in theater.”
Kline spoke to the audience about the importance of getting to work even before a notification of sourcing.
“When a unit gets notified for a deployment, they begin a series of exercises that culminate with mobilization,” Kline said. “(First Army Commanding General) Lt. Gen. Aguto’s priority is for us to do more preparatory training before they get notified. We are helping these senior command chaplains design home-station training that gets after FORSCOM’s battle-focused training tasks relevant to chaplains and religious affairs NCOs. If we can get left of NOS before they get notified, then the mobilization process can be more effective and we can drill down on the gaps.”
The symposium addressed that, he added: “The room is full of the right people. We’re having the right conversation. We’ve long enjoyed a meaningful relationship with our partners. This event has provided time to further strengthen those relationships and there’s been a lot of positive energy.”
Besides bolstering this partnership, the symposium also focused on readiness. “The warfighting function of the chaplain and religious affairs specialists is under sustainment, and we speak to the soul of the Army and of the formation, both the individual, but also how that affects religion, ethics, morality, and morale,” Kline said. “That applies to inside the formation and also the operational environment. We advise commands on how religion shapes the battlefield. All of that speaks to readiness.”
That’s a vital piece of the First Army mission, noted Chaplain (Col.) John Meyer, 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support command chaplain.
“Because we do the validation for the units, I’m here to find out what these commands are looking for when they come to these training events,” he said. “It’s been good to have the opportunity to meet with the command chaplains from the various regions and talk with them about the challenges we face in carrying out the training events.”
Meyer also addressed the readiness aspect. “This event is meant to help us improve our opportunity to keep our Soldiers ready for whatever we’re called to do as Unit Ministry Teams, and also in providing support to Soldiers in our command,” he said.
For Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Murray Phillips, who previously served with the First Army USAR Support Command, it was a chance to see the process from the other side. He is now with 102nd Training Division chaplain.
“We are here to see how Reserve and Guard components can work more closely with First Army and how to incorporate components two and three with First Army,” he said. “We’re seeing how we can utilize First Army OC/Ts into our training.
Meanwhile, Staff Sgt. Sarah Ward, 430th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade religious affairs NCO, said she “came to learn about the other components, make relationships, get to meet the First Army team, and understand how they can help us as we deploy our units. They’ve been nothing but welcoming and supportive.”
When she returns to her unit, Ward said she will take back “the detail of what they expect us to know when we go, so that we can focus on what’s important. The tools that they are providing us here will help us. We have some folks getting ready to go out the door so this will be very helpful for them to be prepped and ready.”