Unified Care: A new approach for military religious professionals of diverse faiths

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Edgar Grimaldo
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force and Army Chaplain Corps teams assigned to the 86th Airlift Wing, and U.S. Army Garrison – Rheinland-Pfalz are at the forefront of preparing military religious professionals from diverse backgrounds to effectively handle mass casualty situations and provide inclusive care in joint and contingency environments.

In a groundbreaking initiative to educate religious support teams on religions beyond their own faiths, 86th AW and USAG-RP chaplains hosted 65 chaplains and religious affairs personnel across the U.S. Air Force and Army for a joint readiness training, April 18, 2024, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Recognizing the importance of cultural sensitivity and inclusivity, the training aimed to equip military religious professionals with knowledge on eleven distinct faith traditions to effectively provide care during large scale combat operations.

“During future conflicts, chaplains will be expected to work in contingent environments where they have to serve servicemembers of various faith groups without the benefit of other chaplains or faith group leaders,” said Maj. Rob Rose, 86th AW chaplain corps deputy wing chaplain. “Training in this regard is essential to ensure that chaplain corps members possess the skills and resilience necessary to fulfill these duties effectively and confidently.”

During the training, participants were briefed on how to care for dying and deceased members from various spiritual backgrounds including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Norse Paganism, among others.

The briefers consisted of military personnel from various operational roles, each representing a different spiritual background—providing a wide range of spiritual perspectives and expertise on the operational methodologies of each branch. A final briefing was delivered by the local mortuary affairs staff, which focused on optimal integration of chapel teams with mortuary personnel.

“This initiative underscores the commitment of the 86th Airlift Wing chapel team to enhance the capabilities of chaplains and ensure that they are prepared to offer compassionate care to all military personnel, regardless of their spiritual background,” said Capt. Joseph Idomele, 86th AW chaplain corps branch chief of readiness and training. “It marks a significant step towards promoting unity and inclusivity in chaplaincy capabilities, ultimately strengthening the support system for military members facing the challenges of mass casualties.”

Following the briefings, U.S. Army chaplains guided participants through a ramp ceremony and a dignified transfer, the process by which remains of fallen military members are transferred to an aircraft from a vehicle before they are airlifted home—an experience military religious professionals are often not exposed to outside of a deployment.

"We have chaplains who were able to experience their first ramp ceremony without prior deployment or practice,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Todd Cheney, USAG-RP chaplain. “Even for those who've been through it before, it was a moment to remind ourselves of our purpose and how we can best support our unit and honor the fallen."

With the enhanced foundational understanding on different religions and faiths obtained during this training, Kaiserslautern Military Community military religious professionals are better equipped to operate in synchronicity in joint and contingency environments and fulfill their mission of nurturing the wellbeing of all service members.

For more information on Ramstein Air Base chaplain and religious services, visit: https://www.facebook.com/RamsteinChapelOfficial.

For a 24/7, crisis and emergency support on-call chaplain, contact command post at DSN: 480-2121 or COMM: (+49) 6371-47-2121.