October 23, 2008

Virginia chaplains train, plan for the future

By Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Chaplains and chaplain’s assistants from across the Commonwealth of Virginia got together at Fort Pickett Oct. 4-5 to conduct training on the concept of a Joint Task Force and to discuss how a JTF would stand up under certain operations. The training brought together chaplains and their assistants from the Virginia Army and Air National Guard, and the Virginia Defense Force.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) John Weatherly, Virginia National Guard state chaplain, brought the chaplains together under recommendation of the Adjutant General of Virginia, Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., to pull together a true Joint Force Headquarters Chaplain Force to respond to any contingency that may face the Commonwealth, the National Capital Region or the nation.

Throughout the weekend the chaplains and their counterparts were given briefings from unit ministry teams that have recently returned from deployment to Iraq on how to better understand and implement current concept plans and operations. The UMTs also expanded the chaplains’ knowledge on responding to alerts and how to man emergency operation centers when called upon in a JTF environment. 

The chaplain’s assistants were given several classes as well. They were given instruction on techniques to protect their respective non-combative chaplains from direct and indirect fire, and how to liaison and coordinate with other military agencies.

According to Chaplain (Maj.) J.D. Moore, JFHQ full-time support chaplain, the mission of the Chaplain Corps has always been viewed as a force multiplier but since 9/11, the Global War of Terrorism, redeployment of troops, Hurricane Katrina and the Virginia Tech shootings, the Chaplain Corps and its mission have seen high visibility. The Chaplains and Chaplain Assistant’s non-tangible attributes have been feverishly sought after by both military and civilian leaders.

Another key point of the training was to provide some fundamental skills for chaplains and assistants serving primarily domestic issues in the Commonwealth.

“The training also provided a time for chaplains and assistants to familiarize themselves with the ministries of the other branches, and to plan support operations for the future,” said Weatherly. “I believe it was an effective time of training because it was the first time that we have had representatives from the Air, Army Guard, and the Defense Force, working together, which would be a very strong possibility in the future.”

“The training magnified the continued need for chaplains and assistants, from all sources within the Guard family, to educate, train and to be prepared to execute when called to action,” said Moore. “The training revealed our need to work together with other agencies, outside our comfort zone, to reach the common goal of recovery from disasters.”

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