News: U.S. Army Chaplain Bridges Understanding With Iraqi Army Imam
SAMARRA, Iraq (June 19, 2006) " Two military religious leaders from two strikingly different backgrounds held an impromptu meeting on June 7 as part of an exchange of culture, ideas and religious understanding.
The two chaplains, one Christian and one Muslim, met at Forward Operating Base Seven, an Iraqi Army Base outside of Samarra.
Chaplain (Capt.) Ivan Arreguin from the 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA) met with Col. Ali Al Jaborah, commander for the 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division.
Arreguin met with Ali with the understanding he was going to meet the Iraqi Army's equivalent to a military chaplain. However, in this case, the "imam" turned out to be Ali.
"I was a little surprised, but understanding," said Arreguin, 'that he would be the final say of spiritual issues, being that he was the commander for that unit."
Arreguin asked Ali during the course of their meeting about his responsibilities as imam to his Soldiers. Arreguin said Ali's answers were not unlike something he would say.
Arreguin wanted to know, "In the event of a death, in the event of a crisis in the family, how do you respond to make sure that the Soldier is taken care of?"
Ali said someone under his command would provide meals for family members. He would give the Soldier time off to be with his family, and he may send a fellow Soldier along to help if necessary.
"This is very much like what the Family Readiness Groups would do back in the rear," said Arreguin.
Capt. Thomas Swint, Military Transition Team Leader stationed at Forward Operating Base Brassfield-Mora near Samarra, facilitated the meeting between the two men and explained that the imam was never the unit commander's responsibility under the old regime. Under the new Iraqi Army policies, being the unit imam may be an additional duty for the commander or a contracted civilian who visits with the Soldiers on a regular basis. Ali would like to see this change however, making the imam a permanent Soldier position within the Iraqi Army.
"I believe this is a good foundation for [Ali] to begin with and to recognize the importance that as a chaplain we have to walk along with our Soldiers," said Arreguin "It gives us the opportunity to listen to them and to have a glimpse of some of the things that they encounter."
This is not Arreguin's first time working in a Muslim country. Prior to becoming a chaplain, he worked as a missionary in Turkey. He also took classes in seminary pertaining to Islamic teaching, theology and cross-cultural communication.
"I thank God that He gave me the strength to make the necessary adjustments," said Arreguin.