By Rich Bartell, U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs OfficeMarch 6, 2012
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo (March 6, 2012) -- Whether it's a U.S. Army Soldier or one from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; family support, combat stress and spiritual well-being are universal soldier issues.
U.S. Army Africa Chaplain (Col.) John McGraw, along with Africa Command Chaplain (Col.) Jerry Lewis, traveled to Kinshasa recently to provide resiliency training to DRC's Armed Forces chaplains.
It was the first formal meeting between military chaplains of the two countries.
"We are just beginning our relationship with the DRC Armed Forces," McGraw said. "DRC is a vast nation and they have a large number of chaplains spread throughout the country."
DRC is the eleventh largest country in the world with more than 3.4 million square kilometers of land.
Meetings with DRC military and police chaplains took place on several installations throughout the Kinshasa metro area.
Chief of DRC Chaplains Col. Jeanne Paul Keela sees the emerging relationship between his organization and U.S. Army chaplains as a positive occurrence.
"Developing the partnership between our chaplains and those of the U.S. Army has been a highlight of the last week," Keela said. "We look forward to the partnership and upcoming training in different domains and particularly for the family and children of our soldiers."
DRC Defense Attaché Col. Lee Whiteside said working with chaplains is unlike other military-to-military programs he has been involved with in the past.
"This is an exciting opportunity to help build capacity in African military chaplain's corps," Whiteside said. "Normally, we work with building core soldier skills and institutional military programs. In this case, the Congolese military requested assistance to help strengthen their chaplain's corps."
McGraw explained some historical background of the region and how it relates to future chaplain training in the DRC.
"The Congolese are very spiritual people. There has been civil war and conflict in this region for nearly two decades," McGraw said. "DRC chaplains are great pastors and preachers, yet they want to know more about improving their ministry with soldiers and the areas of pastoral care," he said. McGraw said follow-on training with chaplains will focus on several areas.
"In the future we'll help DRC chaplains with training in combat stress prevention, family life skills counseling and other religious support missions," McGraw said. "DRC chaplains want to be moral and ethical advisors to their commanders, and we can assist."
Lewis said future DRC chaplain resiliency training features many benefits.
"Our Chaplain Corps is now aligned to assist the Congolese chaplaincy with many of their issues and concerns," Lewis said. "The roles of chaplains can have big connections to peace and stability of this nation, and there are great contributions that our chaplains can make here in the future," he emphasized.