Chaplains play a key role tending to the spiritual well-being of Soldiers, their Families, and the greater Army community. Army chaplains must not only facilitate spiritual growth and connection across a multitude of faiths and practices, but also serve as the first line of defense in crisis intervention.
“Spirituality is the core of prevention and resiliency; I believe that for instance when a person has hope it provides a degree of resiliency that a person who doesn’t have hope won’t have,” said Chaplain (Col.) James Boulware, Soldier and Family Spiritual Readiness Division Action Officer, Office of the Chief of Chaplains.
Spiritual care is an important aspect of crisis intervention. Chaplains support crisis intervention by reducing the stigma associated with receiving mental health services. Also, conversations with chaplains are 100% confidential and cannot be shared with command, so Soldiers can get help, but also maintain privacy.
Often chaplains serve as the gateway to care and are the first people to have contact with individuals who are going through tough situations.
“Chaplains come to the force with a lot of life experience with them, so we bring that life experience of being a father, mother, having a Family with us so that when we sit down with that Soldier we can relate to that Soldier and bring additional wisdom into our counseling,” Boulware said. “Any chaplain would say that our number one priority is people and community.”
Soldiers most often approach chaplains to seek guidance. These circumstances can range from a junior Soldier asking for support on how to handle pressure from their drill sergeant or a senior leader needing counsel regarding career decisions or marriage concerns. Soldiers often share their emotional struggles and other challenging life experiences and hardships.
“(The conditions) can vary but that’s our role as the chaplains to address all of that,” said Boulware.
He said it’s important he knows his role in the crisis as the spiritual facilitator and to understand how religious the care seeker is. “The first thing I do is be aware of my role as a chaplain and move to the spiritual side as well as the emotional and behaviors of that person, we bring in the God aspect, I then use that as part of the platform to build guidance and direction on, I address them in a way that they can receive, and I don’t push my own religious beliefs on someone,” Boulware said.
Boulware said the means and tools chaplain’s use to teach prevention and intervention have changed over time, such as using Ask, Care, Escort and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training to assist in a potential crisis.
Chaplains serve as caregivers to care-seekers and provide the dialogue for individuals to reflect on their purpose and values. They are available to Soldiers through 24/7 on-call lines at each installation, as well as through an installation’s chaplaincy office, although the availability of these lines may differ between installations and garrisons.
You can learn more about the U.S. Army Chaplains Corps here: https://www.army.mil/ chaplaincorps. If you need additional support, please call the Military and Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 or visit https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help-now/ military-crisis-line/.