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NEWS | July 27, 2010

Virginia Guard chaplain support teams headed to Louisiana

By Courtesy Story

RICHMOND, Va., - Two Virginia National Guard chaplain support teams are headed to Louisiana to provide chaplain services to military personnel from all over the country assisting with recovery operations for the Deep Water Horizon oil spill.

One team arrived late in the day July 18 and the second team is scheduled to arrive late afternoon July 19.

“We received a request through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact system for chaplain support in Louisiana, and we were able to quickly find four Soldiers to meet the request,” said Col. Rob McMillin, director of joint operations for the Virginia National Guard.

The two teams are expected to be on duty for 30 days, but their tour of duty could be extended up to 60 days, McMillin said.

A chaplain support team consists of one chaplain and one chaplain’s assistant, and the teams provide chaplain support in the form of religious services, Bible study and counseling.

Chaplain (Capt.) Edward Paul of Virginia Beach and Staff Sgt. Dave Paulon of Rustburg are expected to be on duty in Houma, La., and Chaplain (Capt.) Jeffrey Hicks of Elkton and Pfc. Robert Mathis of Spotsylvania are expected to report to New Orleans.

“I am glad for the opportunity to provide chaplain support to personnel assisting in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill cleanup,” Hicks said. “I am ready to hit the ground running.”

Hicks said he has spoken with the state chaplain in Louisiana expects to be assigned a specificed number of work sites where he and his assistant will be conducting chapel services and Bible studies as well as offering counseling services.

“ I think we can expect long days, high temperatures and continuous but rewarding duty,” Hicks said. “I am deeply grateful to my family for their support and to my employer while away on this mission.”

About 1,900 Defense Department and associated personnel are currently deployed to the Gulf. They are providing ongoing support to contain the leak and clean up the spill, including military-owned skimmers and pollution control equipment. The military also is providing funding for National Guard support to state governors in the region, as well as staging areas for boom and logistical coordination along the coast and at sea.

National Guard troops are supporting local, state and federal authorities with aviation transportation, reconnaissance, security, hazardous materials training and other assets. The Guard has 15 dedicated helicopters for transportation and reconnaissance missions, and National Guardsmen are also assisting in taking claims from Gulf residents affected by the spill.