Fort Stewart unit ministry teams conduct realistic end-of-life care training

By Paul StampsNovember 16, 2023

[This article was submitted by Chaplain (Major) Erik Alfsen, deputy division chaplain for the 3rd Infantry Division]

Fort Stewart unit ministry teams conduct realistic end-of-life care training
Chaplain (Capt.) Jonathan Yeo, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, provides compassionate care to an expectant Soldier during innovative end-of-life care training. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT STEWART, Ga. – The 3rd Infantry Division's chaplain section and the Fort Stewart Garrison Religious Support Office achieved a significant milestone in their ongoing commitment to providing exceptional care to Soldiers. They executed a dynamic training event on end-of-life care, conducted in coordination with the 14th Field Hospital and supported by the 44th Medical Brigade.

This innovative training employed human cadavers within a Role 3 Medical Treatment Facility environment, offering a high-fidelity simulation that took unit ministry teams through sensory acclimatization and hands-on practice in spiritual care delivery. The exercise also emphasized a multidisciplinary approach, underscoring the importance of addressing palliative needs during Large Scale Combat Operations.

Chaplain (Major) Lee Frye, the Fort Stewart Georgia Plans and Operations chaplain, highlighted the significance of the training, stating, "This exercise has allowed us to create a training environment that is as realistic as it gets. We are better preparing our chaplains and religious affairs specialists to provide comprehensive care to Soldiers, particularly those in the most critical conditions."

Fort Stewart unit ministry teams conduct realistic end-of-life care training
Chaplain (CPT) Sung Jung, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, interacts with Chaplain (Maj.) Ric Rivers, the 44th Medical Brigade chaplain, who leads the way in advancing training for Unit Ministry Teams. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort Stewart unit ministry teams conduct realistic end-of-life care training
Religious Affairs Specialists (56Ms) play a crucial role in tracking patients and developing religious support priorities operational environments. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Chaplain (Major) Ric Rivers, the 44th Medical Brigade chaplain who helped facilitate the training, expressed the importance of this collaboration, saying, "While we have conducted similar training events at Fort Liberty and Fort Campbell, the 14th Field Hospital's involvement here at Fort Stewart has allowed us to innovate and enhance the training significantly. We hope to replicate these improvements across FORSCOM and the Army."

The training incorporated full immersion within a Role 3 MTF, providing context for Army Health Systems in LSCO that cannot be replicated elsewhere. The realism of the environment was crucial to the training, addressing physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of end-of-life care.

Sensory acclimatization was another critical component of the training. Participants were exposed to auditory, visual, and olfactory stimuli, including background hospital sounds and verbal interactions from role players controlling the scenario. This conditioning aimed to prepare UMTs to render care effectively under stressful conditions.

The exercise demonstrated cohesive teamwork among chaplains, religious affairs specialists, and medical staff, emphasizing the importance of integrated care for the wounded and dying. It underscored the Chaplain Corps' commitment to pluralism, focusing on ministering to Soldiers from diverse faith backgrounds without compromising their own beliefs.

The training also highlighted the role of 56Ms (religious affairs specialists) and 56As (chaplains) within the Chaplain Corps. It offered 56Ms opportunities for patient tracking, data collection, and direct care, emphasizing their critical role in providing holistic care. Feedback and coaching were integral to the training, with each UMT receiving one-on-one debriefs and targeted feedback from trained chaplain clinicians or senior chaplains. This support is instrumental for emotional well-being and professional growth, allowing UMTs to refine their skills.

The success of this training event indicates its scalability, making it replicable in any field hospital field training exercise. Expanding this training model to other Corps through their medical brigades is expected to enhance the capabilities of the Chaplain Corps across the Army, resulting in heightened readiness, improved pastoral care, and better mental health outcomes for caregivers and service members alike.