TAJI, IRAQ, –
Military chaplains and their assistants provide spiritual support to Soldiers, both in a deployed environment and back at home. They are part of a support network for Soldiers going through a hard time or just needing someone to share their thoughts or concerns.
The Chaplain Corps provides counseling for Soldiers in times of crisis, such as extreme stress, grief or psychological trauma. Army Chaplains are teamed-up with an enlisted Soldier known as a Chaplain Assistant. Together they form what is known as a Unit Ministry Team (UMT).
“Chaplains have to be extra resilient and take time for self-care,” said Maj. (CH) James S. Kim, chaplain of the 369th Sustainment Brigade.
“Caregiver” is a term given to chaplains and their assistants within the military. On a day-to-day basis, ministers may deal with many grief counseling cases and always have to remember the importance of self-care.
“I have learned from my past deployment, that when I am assisting people with their issues, there is only so much I can help with,” said Kim. “At the end of the day, I have to be able to unravel everything I heard from the day and be able to get my own counseling.”
UMT’s are empathetic to Soldiers’ personal problems, such as substance abuse, relationship issues, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If they are not conscious of the psychological toll their empathy can take on them, they run the risk of suffering from what is known as compassion fatigue. UMT’s need to find ways to cope and release the weight they take on from providing moral support to their Soldiers.
“It is important to understand your limitations, what you can and can’t do, but most importantly finding that time to connect to your faith,” said Master Sgt. Samuel W. Gilpin, of the 1st Sustainment Command (Theater) UMT.
The Army Chaplain Corps’ purpose is to provide a responsive religious support to the unit in both deployed and garrison environments. The support they provide can include religious education, clergy counsel, worship services, and faith group expression. Chaplains have been an integral part of the Army since 1775 when the Continental Congress officially made chaplains a part of the Army. Chaplains serve commanders by offering insight into the impacts of religion when developing strategy, campaign plans, and conducting operations. They also provide Soldiers an outlet for spiritual practice and to have someone to confide in when they are in need.