09/04/2012 | By Chaplain (Master Sgt.) Katrina B. Todd 108th Training Command (IET)
The Strong Bonds events are a vital part of unit morale and need to continue to be a high priority within your units. The goal is to build strong families which will lead to a strong and ready force.
I was led to the 108th Training Command (IET) UMT and was interviewed by the former full-time AGR senior chaplain assistant, Sgt. 1st Class Roberts at the time. He took me under his wing and trained me on the roles and responsibilities of both senior and master chaplain assistant. From my past experience in human resources and numerous administrative fields it was very easy for me to adjust to the new role as master chaplain assistant. What I find to be most rewarding is helping Soldiers and families.
I am pending retirement in the next fiscal year and wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support and the opportunities that I have experienced while working as a chaplain assistant.
Prior to becoming a chaplain assistant, I must admit I thought just as so many other Soldiers in different career fields thought; that a chaplain assistant’s job was very easy and somewhat relaxed. It is much more than doing administrative work. We are the eyes and ears for our chaplains and for the command as a whole to enhance unit morale. Talking to and getting to know Soldiers in the unit is a great way for us to become visible to the command. It also helps us to build trust for the UMT and Soldiers will feel more comfortable coming to the chaplain in their time of need. Usually, chaplain assistants are the first people you see when entering the chaplain’s office so it is very important for us make the person feel comfortable from the time they enter the office. We must show compassion and concern for all Soldiers and their families. If an emergency or situation with a Soldier or family member arises, we must know how to stay calm and make the person feel they can put their trust in us to help them.
From the Headquarters, to the divisions and down to the subordinate units, the 108th Training Command (IET) footprint is spread across four Regional Support Commands (RSC) and 25 different states. Sometimes it can be challenging to be visibly available at times. This is when all of the UMTs pull together and try to accommodate our Soldiers, families, and their communities where religious services otherwise might not be available. We have chaplain assistants doing great things for their UMTs. They are willing to travel to many different locations with their chaplains and sometimes without their chaplains to make ministry happen. One of the top priorities for the chaplain assistant is to maintain and ensure the safety of the chaplain in a combat environment because chaplains are non-combatants. Since my tenure here, there have been countless times that chaplain assistants have volunteered for mobilizations and deployments. Some have even crossed-leveled with other units in order to protect chaplains on the battlefield during deployment as well as giving them an opportunity to serve Soldiers in their time of need. So it is vital that the chaplain assistant maintain their physical and weapons training, because they have to be ready to stand guard and protect their chaplain when called upon.
Most career fields require you to be trained in order to perform your job to a successful standard. Chaplain assistants are not only trained, but should have certain qualities in order to fulfill their role. I can’t imagine that anyone can be a chaplain assistant without being caring, goodhearted, and attentive to other people needs. The great thing about working in this field is that everyone might have a different belief about spiritual or religious matters, but they must be conscientious and respectful of other people’s beliefs.
One of the most rewarding parts of being a chaplain assistant was the Strong Bonds program. I enjoyed all of the planning and details that went into making the events happen. A few years ago I worked as the program coordinator for the 108th Training Command (IET) Strong Bonds program and handled the financing and contracts for our events. Since the 81st RSC has taken over the logistical portion of the program two years ago, it has freed up most of the coordinating responsibilities we once did. The training command and the divisions still offer their own events and our UMTs are still very visible in making the Strong Bonds events happen. Since the Strong Bonds program started in 1997 it has spread throughout the Army with more than 150,000 Soldiers and family members in attendance each year. The great thing about the program is that there is something for everyone. The couples and single Soldiers attending participate in workshops with a variety of topics including communication, commitment, problem solving, intimacy, and numerous other modules. There are family events that include children and have curriculum for the entire family to learn from and enjoy. The purpose of these events is to help normalize the changes that Soldiers and their families might be experiencing in their lives from a variety of situations, especially the post deployment transition. The key to all healthy relationships, we must keep in mind, is our ability to communicate. It is an ongoing process that will require our consistent attention to our spouse, children, partners, and families.
The Strong Bonds events are a vital part of unit morale and need to continue to be a high priority within your units. The goal is to build strong families which will lead to a strong and ready force. I encourage Soldiers and their families to attend a Strong Bonds event if they have never attended one. It is a great way to learn new methods and concepts that you might not otherwise have used in building a strong relationship with your families; it is also a fun and relaxing weekend away from home. Our full-time AGR senior chaplain assistant Sgt. 1st Class Mark Wiggins has done and continues to do a great job managing our Strong Bonds registration process and being available to answer any questions Soldiers may have about the Strong Bonds program during the week.
I will soon be transitioning into a new phase in my life and look forward to my retirement. Of course, I will truly miss the Army way of life, my co-workers, Soldiers and their families. It has been an honor and a privilege to have worked alongside Soldiers that are dedicated to their cause for helping others and wanting to make a difference in the lives of so many.
I want to thank God, for allowing me all of the opportunities that he has bestowed upon me throughout my career and all of the blessings he has given to me in my personal life. Without Him, none of this would have been possible. Again, thank you Lord.