Sgt. Aaliyah Craven, 50th Public Affairs, U.S. Army
U.S. Army chaplains and chaplain assistants from the 3rd Infantry Division hosted a chaplaincy symposium at Fort Stewart on April 27. The event was a collaboration with chaplains from across the region and was a chance for all involved to discuss religious resources that Fort Stewart churches offer to soldiers and their families.
The event also aided in building stronger relations among the clergy and provided a forum to discuss challenges that chaplains and their assistants face while aiding soldiers.
“Sometimes, soldiers and their families go to a chapel on post, but many times they live in the community and they go to a church in Pooler, Hinesville, Savannah or Richmond Hill,” said Lt. Col. Chris Wallace, the division chaplain for the 3rd Infantry Division. “This is a way that we can network with local clergy members who are providing religious support to our soldiers and their family members.”
The event included briefings from Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield unit chaplains, who addressed opportunities and aids that are available locally. Many chaplains also shared their life experiences and discussed how these experiences shaped their preaching skills. “With me being new to the community, it’s a real good opportunity for me to hear about some of the unique challenges that our military families face so that I can be better equipped to serve those families,” said Andrew Mcclure, a church pastor from Richmond Hill.
For chaplains and chaplain assistants, building bonds between churches on post and those outside of the base gates helps ensure a holistic approach to soldiers’ and families’ spiritual development.
“If a soldier is not healthy spiritually, they’re going to struggle in their own personal life, and it’s going to affect them holistically,” Wallace said.
Another key subject of discussion for the group was the role that commanders play in taking care of their soldiers’ mental and spiritual health and how chaplains can assist their commanders.
“When the chaplain helps the command build a community of caring for the soul of that platoon, company or battalion, the chaplains are helping the Army to be a more cohesive, stronger, healthier team and community,” Wallace said.
Wallace also explained that a strong spiritual well-being helps soldiers endure hardship and that chaplains now, more than ever, play a big role in helping soldiers and their families. For him, this symposium helped reinforce that ideal while also allowing religious leaders from on and off post to forge long-lasting bonds.
“Chaplains are out there every day helping the souls of soldiers and families as they deal with death, crises within their marriage, hardships in their family, or helping them celebrate birth, marriage, anniversaries, birthdays and other great and wonderful things,” Wallace said.
No firm date has been published yet for a future symposium, but Wallace and other leaders in attendance hope to make it a recurring event, where religious leaders can help one another learn to better address the needs of soldiers and their families.