JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - The commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division spoke to Unit Ministry Teams about understanding their role of helping commanders to develop leaders within their units, Feb. 7.

UMTs support leaders by training them to identify issues that could be affecting soldiers and teaching them techniques to intervene.

"To be a chaplain is to be a leader," said Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, commanding general, 7th Inf. Div., at the beginning of his opening remarks to the UMTs.

After a decade of war, the chaplaincy has changed, added Lanza, the focus of chaplains is not only to preach, but to ensure they are building a relationship with their commanders.

UMTs have a responsibility to assist commanders in the development of themselves and teaching their leaders the responsibility of providing support, said Lanza.

The 7th Inf. Div. commanding general believes that chaplains can affect a commander's leadership.

"I am a product of a good chaplain," he emphasized.

When the unit sees that a commander has a good relationship with their chaplain they know the relationship positively affects the organization as a whole.

Lanza emphasized that teams should communicate continuously with their commanders to provide assistance on how to take preventive measures for misconduct within the ranks.

"Great chaplains are working on relationships before bad things happen," Lanza said.

"What the chaplains do in their units make a difference and they can teach leaders to better engage their soldiers."

Chaplains are no different than any other officer in the unit; their position is greatly emphasized in the organization.

Maj. Collin Grossruck, the deputy chaplain with 7th Inf. Div., said UMTs are held to a high expectation.

"They are the eyes and ears for commanders," Grossruck said. "UMTs need to understand and know the friction points in their units so they can engage leaders to implement a plan to fix the problem."

It's important for chaplains to visit with soldiers in their area of operations, and build a relationship by spending time and finding out about soldiers, he added.

"Soldiers don't want to know how much a leader knows but how much a leader cares," Grossruck continued.

The chaplain assistant doesn't have the responsibility of providing counsel to soldiers; however, many assistants find themselves building relationships, which will allow them to guide soldiers to the chaplain for more help.

"There are many soldiers that come and talk to me," said Pvt. Chris Baldwin, a chaplain assistant with 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Inf. Div.

"I think because they believe I can relate to them more makes it easier for them to talk about things going on in their lives," Baldwin said.

I understand that my job as a chaplain assistant is an important role, and I am always glad to help. Baldwin added.

As an adviser to their commander, UMTs influence of the unit can encourage the organization in keeping the trust, morale and values of leaders and their subordinates.

Capt. Ken May, 555th Engineer Brigade, 7th Inf. Div., said Lanza gave him a lot of insight and direction that he could take and utilize as an engagement plan within his own unit.

"It was really nice for a senior leader to recognize us," said May. "He carved out our place in the [UMT] mission."