Traditionally, individuals who are grieving losses or who are in crisis
situations turn to clergy for support. In peacetime situations, one of the
major roles of chaplains is to provide support to Army personnel and their
families when they are grieving or in crisis.
However, even in peacetime there is not always a chaplain available for
every grief stricken or crisis beset person. Frequently, it is the chaplain
assistant who is available to provide the support.
During military operations, whether in training or in combat, the UMT
provides support for grieving soldiers and their families.
projected battle scenarios both the chaplain and the chaplain assistant need
to know how to extend this support. However, training accidents and other
mass casualty situations will also test the UMT's skills in this area.
For the chaplain the role grows naturally from his or her ministry. For the
chaplain assistant the role grows from that of an NCO who is responsible for
the well-being of his or her fellow soldiers. As a member of the UMT, the
chaplain assistant will constantly face situations where mastery of crisis
intervention skills will be vital.
Picture for a minute operations in a combat environment. The UMT has set
its base of operations next to the Battalion Aid Station. The chaplain is
away providing denominational services for a neighboring unit.
there is a rush of activity as seriously wounded soldiers are brought into
the Aid Station. The entire area becomes a crisis involving not only the
wounded but psychological casualties, disabled by stress.
In this situation, the chaplain away and the staff involved in giving
medical care, the chaplain assistant becomes the first line of support for
non-medical trauma. The chaplain assistant needs to understand crisis and
He or she needs to diagnose these conditions and to know the
appropriate kind of support to extend or how to refer to those who can.
Clearly, the chaplain assistant must:
Understand that he or she has a mission in this situation.
Be able to remain cool in a crisis situation.
Be able to calm others.
Understand the stages of grief.
Be able to apply theoretical knowledge in a real world situation.
Know the limits of his or her own competence.
To give you a sense of the scope of support required in a crisis, we are
reprinting here excerpts from a study by the Division of Neuropsychiatry at
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research on the aftermath of the Gander