U.S., South Korea conduct combined ministry exercise

U.S., South Korea conduct combined ministry exercise

by Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Kosterman
U.S. Army

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea (June 18, 2015) -- A chaplain's role in many Hollywood movies is often depicted during the most trying times for the Soldiers, often providing "combat ministry" to those in need.

In these moments, which sometimes play out on the battlefield, chaplains and their assistants are expected to perform the difficult task of calming wounded or dying Soldiers.

A group of chaplains and chaplain assistants, assigned to units in the Republic of Korea, or ROK, army and U.S. Eighth Army concluded training, June 18, which taught them lessons gathered from more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The final three days of the two-week course were dedicated to applying these lessons in a variety of scenarios presented during a field training exercise.

The intent of the training was "to better prepare chaplains and chaplain assistants for engaging in combat so they can provide full spectrum religious operations and support to troops and their commanders," said Lt. Col. Robert A. Miller, department head of pastoral ministry training on Joint Base San Antonio.

Miller recently led a team to perform the training, called the Emergency Medical Ministry Course for chaplains and combat medical ministry for chaplain assistants, to Hawaii. He said this most recent visit, to the city of Seongnam, South Korea, to provide training to members of the ROK army with U.S. Soldiers, is the first time such combined training has been done.

"We don't exclude foreign chaplains or chaplain assistants from coming to join us [at the school house in San Antonio]," Miller said. "However, this is the first time we've ever considered doing an integrated training in a foreign country."

Classroom lessons included assisting medical personnel during mass casualty situations and air medevacs, convoy operations, and ramp and memorial ceremonies. Visual material included pictures and video of situations experienced by Soldiers in combat environments. The real, and sometimes graphic imagery, was presented to prepare students for their missions.

"All these skills, ROK and U.S. personnel already know and have employed them a number of times, but we [U.S. instructors] wanted to see how we'd be able to train this collaboratively to make both armies that much stronger," Miller said.

While these skills are talked about in theory, it isn't often that unit ministry teams get the chance to practice these tasks. To further enhance participants' understanding of a casualty's position, a few chaplains and their assistants were selected to serve as simulated casualties, who were treated in a forward surgical hospital and then moved via air ambulance on a half-hour flight.

One simulated casualty described the feeling of loneliness as a casualty being passed between different locations. This discovery resonated with exercise participants when shared in a group setting.

"We learned that as chaplains, we must do our best to relieve the mind and body of Soldiers, who are in need of immediate help before they are moved," said Maj. Lee Kyung-soo, a chaplain in the ROK army.

American students, who complete the course, receive an academic evaluation report in their official military record. All students, who complete the course, receive a certificate of graduation.

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