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NEWS | April 23, 2024

New York Army Guard Chaplains Train with African Counterparts

By Eric Durr, New York National Guard

LUSAKA, Zambia - The New York National Guard’s state chaplain and deputy state chaplain shared experiences and ideas with military chaplains from five African militaries in Lusaka, the capital of the southern African country of Zambia, April 5-13.

Chaplain (Col.) Douglas Brock, the state chaplain, and Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Timothy Miller, his deputy, took part in a chaplains’ workshop conducted by Zambia’s chaplain general, Brig. Gen. Rev. Dr. Henry Matifeyo.

Military chaplains from Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Namibia were also among the 60 chaplains attending the event.

The five nations are part of the Southern African Development Community, a 16-nation organization focused on economic development, defense and security cooperation.

Brock and Miller were part of a 12-member American contingent headed by U.S. African Command Chief Chaplain (Col.) Karen Meeker.

Brock said he and Miller were there because chaplains from South Africa were expected to attend.

The New York National Guard and the South African National Defence Force are partners under the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program.

The South Africans did not make it, but taking part in the conference was a great experience, Brock said.

“It was a remarkable opportunity to connect and learn from our international peers, reminding us that despite diverse backgrounds, our mission remains the same: to compassionately support our service members and their families,” Brock said.

Miller, who also serves as the division chaplain for the 42nd Infantry Division, said African chaplains face the same issues as American chaplains.

“Their Soldiers deploy on peacekeeping missions to the Democratic Republic of Congo and face the same stresses Americans who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan dealt with: separation from families and PTSD-inducing events,” Miller said.

Miller said he, Brock and the other Americans, including chaplains from the North Carolina Army National Guard, talked about American programs for coping with PTSD and the stresses of deploying and returning from deploying, Miller said.

“We are all in the same type of environment,” Miller said. “It might look at little different, but we all have the job of nourishing the souls of those who are part of the military no matter what flag they may be under.”

The Americans discussed how the U.S. Army is changing programs to train and develop chaplains. Miller said they also learned from the Africans.

Democratic Republic of Congo Army Chaplain Col. Tshinyime Kasongo Celestin spoke movingly about how he had to deal with his own trauma after seeing soldiers who had been killed and mutilated by rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Miller said.

Another retired military chaplain talked about how he cared for Soldiers stricken by a deadly fever during a deployment.

Brock said being at the workshop was a great way to promote the State Partnership Program, which pairs state National Guards with foreign militaries.

The North Carolina National Guard chaplains attended the workshop because their state partners with Botswana, Zambia and Malawi.

Hopefully, the other chaplains saw the benefits of working with members of the National Guard, Brock said.

Workshop attendees took a nine-hour bus trip from Lusaka to Livingstone’s Victoria Falls, a waterfall twice as high and wide as Niagara Falls on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The American chaplains also were invited to preach at local churches and attend a wedding.

In remarks posted on the Africa Command website, Meeker emphasized the importance of these relationships.

“As we come together, sharing insights and experiences, we’re not just strengthening the support for military personnel and their families, we’re forging a bond that transcends borders,” the Africa Command chaplain said.



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