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Home : News : News Features
NEWS | June 12, 2024

Chaplains Address Guard Soldiers’ Spiritual, Mental Health

By Staff Sgt. Daisy Broker, National Guard Bureau

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Army Guard chaplains and their supporting Unit Ministry Teams from throughout the United States refined strategies and tools for boosting Soldiers’ spiritual and mental health May 6-9 at the Army National Guard’s Professional Education Center.

The training event also covered the importance of equipping Guard chaplains with the tools to support Soldiers.

“As chaplains, your role is not just important, it’s crucial,” said Command Sgt. Maj. John T. Raines, the command sergeant major of the Army National Guard. “The Army National Guard relies on you to significantly contribute to increasing your troop’s readiness.”

The event also explored holistic health and fitness practices for Soldiers preparing for “the road to war,” a common phrase that describes unit preparedness.

“There is really no such thing as sleep, health, spiritual health, or mental health. There’s just health, right? Because each area impacts another one,” said U.S. Army Capt. David L. Woodward, a chaplain assigned to the Army National Guard. “What the Chaplain Corps can bring to spiritual and mental health is the individual’s soul, regardless of what your faith is or isn’t.”

To help Soldiers negotiate the challenges missions can bring, the UMTs developed a variety of spiritual initiatives, including the ability to provide religious services, offer one-on-one counseling, organize spiritual retreats, and facilitate group discussions on faith and spirituality. Chaplains design these activities to address the unique spiritual needs of each Soldier and promote a sense of community and support within the unit.

“Military chaplains are the obvious choice to help Soldiers develop their spirituality,” said Woodward. “They are the guardians of the First Amendment, ensuring that every Soldier has the right to freedom of religion.”

Woodward calls developing spirituality “soul work.”

“I have supported Muslim Soldiers, atheist Soldiers, agnostics, Wiccans and Christian Soldiers,” said Woodward. “Even if you don’t believe in God, I’m your chaplain. I’ll ensure each Soldier has the time and place to practice whichever religion the Soldier chooses to subscribe to.”

Woodward asks Soldiers: How and what principles does your higher power operate on? How can I help you implement those in your lives to help you reach your potential or get closer to your potential and be successful?

“Spiritual health helps mental health,” said Woodward. “Spirituality helps us identify who we are in relation to a higher power of the vertical and to those around us, the horizontal. When we know who we are, our mental health is ours to manage.”