By Rich Bartell, U.S. Army Africa Public AffairsApril 16, 2012
VINCENZA, Italy (April 11, 2012) -- Returning from a second engagement, U.S. Army Africa (USARAF) Chaplain (Maj.) Allen Staley, and Command Chap. (Col.) Gary Brown from 21st Theater Support Command, worked with more than 20 Liberian Armed Forces chaplains during a Chaplain Professionalization Seminar in Monrovia, Liberia.
Known as a traveling contact team, Staley and Brown built on previous engagements in Africa.
"Liberia is only a few years into recovery and is rebuilding after more than a decade of destructive civil war," Staley said. "Their military chaplaincy is still in its developmental stages, and Liberia is the first place where USARAF has conducted engagement on the topic of chaplaincy professionalization."
This visit encompassed USARAF's second phase of instruction focusing on formalized organizational policy and continuation of critical ministry and staff skills training.
"Since our January visit, the Armed Forces of Liberia has approved assignment of additional chaplains, resulting in official recognition of chaplain presence and assignment of chaplains to all troop units, to include several Muslim chaplains," Staley said. "We believe this is a result of efforts in the last training event here."
The Armed Forces of Liberia, or AFL, Chief of Chaplains 1st Lt. Dessaline Allison coordinated the event for AFL.
The event, held at Edward Binyah Kesselly Barracks near Monrovia, marks the first time USARAF and a 21st TSC chaplain have worked together in Liberia.
"Chaplain Brown served as a subject matter expert during the training. He's a recognized authority in hospital ministry and has specialized experience with those affected by abuse and addiction," Staley said.
Staley reinforced the importance of the engagement training mission with AFL chaplains.
"Our partnership goal is to help AFL chaplains develop their roles and create successful military
ministries to improve the quality of life for soldiers and families in Liberia," Staley said.
According to Staley, AFL chaplains have the opportunity to attend formal schools for military chaplains in the U.S. as part of the International Military Education Training program.
"We look forward to future engagements and future partnerships with the U.S. to help sharpen our skills and make our chaplains a professional and valuable asset to our military forces," Allison said.
Staley said he will use experiences with AFL chaplains with his future ministry to U.S. Soldiers.
"We've learned the importance of translating our experiences into cultural realities. Both parties get the most from our lessons learned; for example, we learned how to make the most of opportunities, to be flexible and to carry-out effective ministry with limited resources from the Liberian chaplains," Staley said. "We respect our Liberian colleagues for their ability to do so much in their circumstances."
Brown reinforced the universal challenges of chaplains' duties in an emerging organization.
"The biggest challenge is realizing the helping agencies we have available to us in the U.S. Army are not there for the AFL. Chaplains are one of the helping agencies the military has. Getting to the meat of the matter and giving chaplains and their assistants basic tools needed to provide ministry in that austere environment is key," Brown said.