USARJ holds inaugural unit ministry team summit

By Sean Kimmons, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsAugust 17, 2023

Lt. Col. J.P. Smith, command chaplain for U.S. Army Japan, listens to unit ministry team members introduce themselves at the start of a three-day summit at Camp Zama, Japan, Aug. 15, 2023. The summit, which was the first-ever conducted by USARJ, included sessions on leadership development, lessons learned and fiscal year planning, as well as team-building activities.
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Lt. Col. J.P. Smith, command chaplain for U.S. Army Japan, listens to unit ministry team members introduce themselves at the start of a three-day summit at Camp Zama, Japan, Aug. 15, 2023. The summit, which was the first-ever conducted by USARJ, included sessions on leadership development, lessons learned and fiscal year planning, as well as team-building activities. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Unit ministry team members pray during a three-day summit at Camp Zama, Japan, Aug. 15, 2023. The summit, which was the first-ever conducted by U.S. Army Japan, included sessions on leadership development, lessons learned and fiscal year planning, as well as team-building activities.
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Unit ministry team members pray during a three-day summit at Camp Zama, Japan, Aug. 15, 2023. The summit, which was the first-ever conducted by U.S. Army Japan, included sessions on leadership development, lessons learned and fiscal year planning, as well as team-building activities. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Lt. Col. Mark Olson, deputy command chaplain for U.S. Army Japan, briefs unit ministry team members during a three-day summit at Camp Zama, Japan, Aug. 15, 2023. The summit, which was the first-ever conducted by USARJ, included sessions on leadership development, lessons learned and fiscal year planning, as well as team-building activities.
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Lt. Col. Mark Olson, deputy command chaplain for U.S. Army Japan, briefs unit ministry team members during a three-day summit at Camp Zama, Japan, Aug. 15, 2023. The summit, which was the first-ever conducted by USARJ, included sessions on leadership development, lessons learned and fiscal year planning, as well as team-building activities. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

CAMP ZAMA, Japan – U.S. Army Japan held its first-ever unit ministry team summit this week that aimed to forge closer bonds among more than 20 chaplains and religious affairs specialists stationed here and in Okinawa.

The three-day summit, which ended Thursday, included sessions on leadership development, lessons learned and fiscal year planning, as well as team-building activities, such as a spiritual wellness hike and a visit to the Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo.

“While we may wear different patches, we’re all a part of the same vision,” said Lt. Col. J.P. Smith, command chaplain for USARJ. “And so one of the things that we really wanted to do was bring everybody together here under one umbrella, so that everyone knows that they have a system of support.”

Smith, who arrived to Japan about a month ago, also discussed his views on the way forward for the unit ministry teams and met each team member individually.

“Instead of taking 30 opportunities to cast vision and to hear their stories and what’s going on in their units, we were able to have everybody together,” he said.

A close-knit ministry community is essential, he said, since chaplains often need to provide area coverage for dispersed military units or when a fellow chaplain is on leave or on temporary duty.

“Without that collaboration and collective ministry, some of our Soldiers just would not be served,” Smith said. “[And] some of our commanders would not be able to have a solid religious support program.”

Unit ministry team members conduct a spiritual wellness hike during a three-day summit at Camp Zama, Japan, Aug. 16, 2023. The summit, which was the first-ever conducted by U.S. Army Japan, included sessions on leadership development, lessons learned and fiscal year planning, as well as team-building activities.
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Unit ministry team members conduct a spiritual wellness hike during a three-day summit at Camp Zama, Japan, Aug. 16, 2023. The summit, which was the first-ever conducted by U.S. Army Japan, included sessions on leadership development, lessons learned and fiscal year planning, as well as team-building activities. (Photo Credit: Maj. Devon Thomas) VIEW ORIGINAL
Unit ministry team members conduct a spiritual wellness hike during a three-day summit at Camp Zama, Japan, Aug. 16, 2023. The summit, which was the first-ever conducted by U.S. Army Japan, included sessions on leadership development, lessons learned and fiscal year planning, as well as team-building activities.
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Unit ministry team members conduct a spiritual wellness hike during a three-day summit at Camp Zama, Japan, Aug. 16, 2023. The summit, which was the first-ever conducted by U.S. Army Japan, included sessions on leadership development, lessons learned and fiscal year planning, as well as team-building activities. (Photo Credit: Maj. Devon Thomas) VIEW ORIGINAL
Maj. Cornelius Muasa, the 10th Support Group chaplain, conducts a devotion and prayer during a three-day summit at Camp Zama, Japan, Aug. 15, 2023. The summit, which was the first-ever conducted by USARJ, included sessions on leadership development, lessons learned and fiscal year planning, as well as team-building activities.
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Maj. Cornelius Muasa, the 10th Support Group chaplain, conducts a devotion and prayer during a three-day summit at Camp Zama, Japan, Aug. 15, 2023. The summit, which was the first-ever conducted by USARJ, included sessions on leadership development, lessons learned and fiscal year planning, as well as team-building activities. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

Ministry teams from all military branches also assist each other. For instance, an Air Force ministry team helped cover missions in Okinawa while the Army teams attended the summit.

Maj. Cornelius Muasa, the 10th Support Group chaplain, was one of the team members who made the trip to Camp Zama.

“The summit is actually something that my team down in Okinawa has been asking for, for a long time,” he said, adding the event can strengthen camaraderie between the participants.

On the first day of the summit, Muasa delivered a devotion and prayer to the group and shared his advice on progressing from a captain to a major within the Army Chaplain Corps.

Muasa said religious support can be a force multiplier, as it helps people become stronger emotionally and spiritually.

“It’s so important, because I think it’s one of the greatest tools in [how] the Army puts people first,” he said. “We help bring that to life.”

Army ministry teams recently joined forces to assist military families that had no power for days after Typhoon Khanun struck Okinawa and then turned back and hit the island again.

As a show of support to the more than 100 families affected by the power outage, Muasa said offerings from chapel services will be used to provide them $25 gift cards to the commissary.

“That’s just one way we can help,” he said.

During the summit, Sgt. Tiyonna Perkins, a religious affairs specialist assigned to the 78th Signal Battalion in Okinawa, said she was left inspired by the face-to-face interaction with her colleagues.

“They are very motivating and inspiring,” she said. “It just makes me want to go back to Okinawa and do better.”

Perkins also appreciated the opportunity to enhance her job and leadership skills from the sessions and conversations with others.

“I want to learn how to better myself,” she said. “How can I improve as a religious affairs specialist for my unit and for my chaplain … is what I’m hoping to get out of this training.”

Lt. Col. Mark Olson, deputy command chaplain for USARJ, said he believed the summit can bolster religious support for Soldiers, Army civilians and their families across Japan.

“Our goal is to maximize our capabilities and capacity to be able to touch each and every one of their lives in some way that is meaningful,” he said.

Olson, who invited attendees to his home for lunch on Wednesday, said he hoped the summit also created a unity of effort and sense of belonging for the participants.

“In order to work together, we got to know each other,” Olson said. “Half of our team is 1,000 miles away, so the ability to connect, to build a sense of team, is important.”

Related links:

U.S. Army Garrison Japan news

USAG Japan official website