MOLINE, Ill. – U.S. Army Sustainment Command Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Kevin Niehoff gave two presentations at a training event comprised of local community faith-based organizations Oct. 18 seeking to understand the life of military personnel better in an effort to reach out and offer help where needed.
About 60 people attended the training held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the CityView Celebrations at Trimble Pointe in Moline.
Niehoff gave two presentations titled “The Role of the Church and Faith-Based Leaders” and “Military Culture, Deployment, Homecoming.”
“I talked about the need in military culture to understand the language. Our use of acronyms and the different processes. The different sub-cultures within Army culture,” explained Niehoff regarding military culture, “such as Special Operations are different from logisticians from aviators from line infantry units.”
Regarding deployment and homecoming, Niehoff explained how the military splits it up into three parts and calls it Pre-deployment, Deployment and Post-deployment. He also talked about the differences between active-duty Soldiers versus the National Guard and Reserve Soldiers.
“Guard and Reserve units would conduct a six-month train-up to deploy and from those I had talked with within two weeks after redeployment (coming home) they could be back in their civilian job,” he said.
Niehoff also told attendees that “change” is the one constant in the Army.
“I discussed the changes in deployments from the 1990s -- a brigade deploying for six months to Bosnia. In the 2000s -- entire divisions would deploy. In the 2010s individual brigades would deploy out of divisions and the division would be scattered all over,” he said.
“I also talked about how people change over that year (of deployment). Dealing with children that year could make a difference. The difference in the age of the leave and return,” Niehoff said. “There is a difference between a 12-year-old and a 13-year-old, between a 17-year-old and an 18-year-old. While away everybody’s life continues to move on.”
During his second presentation, Niehoff explained the relevance of a chaplain’s role during troubled times and the role of community churches.
“When you have shown up, God has shown up,” he said of a chaplain, especially during a family crisis. “That’s how people see them.”
Niehoff explained that because of the nomadic lifestyle in the active-duty Army of moving on average every two years, local religious organizations and churches must reach out to the Soldier and the family early on in a new assignment.
“They’re very concerned about their children getting involved,” he said, of continuing a faith-based life regardless of where they live based on a new assignment.
And churches can play a huge role to fill the void when a Soldier deploys. Niehoff cited one example of where the spouse said “the church became her family” while her husband was away.
“They’re people. Be there with them,” he said. “Try to understand the lifestyle.”
Other speakers included:
• “Impact on the Family” – Terry Randolph, Army veteran and military spouse.
• “Finding God on the Battlefield” – retired Army Col. Burl Randolph, formerly of U.S. Army Sustainment Command headquarters.
• “Vet Center Resources” – Joseph Laden, Veteran Outreach Program specialist.
“Service-provider training is part of our strategic plan. We want to educate key members of the faith-based community on military culture, wounds of war, and making referrals for services,” explained Sherri Behr DeVrieze, Community Health Program coordinator/ Military Program coordinator, UnityPoint Health – Trinity.
“We wanted them to learn how to assist veterans, military members, and their families in their churches or organizations. We wanted to provide education, tools, and resources to better equip them for these conversations,” DeVrieze said. “Key stakeholders include pastors, parish nurses, church deacons and elders, and other church leaders. Other key faith-based entities were included as well, such as hospital chaplains, Churches United, Lutheran Social Services, and Cornerstone Retreat Center for First Responders.”
A similar event was held in May on health care and mental health providers, she said. And in 2019, there also was a two-day event for veterans with 600 in attendance.
“It is our belief that the more people who understand the challenges that our veterans and military members and families face, the better we are able to assist them when needed and meet them where they are,” DeVrieze said.