News: Deployed chaplain assistants complete stress training
Story by Sgt. Antony Lee
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Several deployed U.S. Army chaplain assistants participated in stress training at the personal security/ known threat stress shoot range at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 19, 2013, to sharpen their skills in providing security for chaplains.
Staff Sgt. Dustin Hall, a chaplain assistant for 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas, arranged the training for the Regional Command (South) chaplain assistants and gave them tips throughout the morning training.
“You don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training,” Hall said, emphasizing the importance of training often and staying sharp.
Hall, who arranges monthly training for chaplain assistants he supervises, invited all KAF chaplain assistants for the November training.
Instead of standard classroom briefings, he gives them an opportunity to build “confidence and competence” with practical training, said Master Sgt. Harry Slone, the RC(S) master chaplain assistant noncommissioned officer.
This month, Hall helped arrange stress training intended to get chaplain assistants used to handling a weapon with their heart rate up, as would likely be the case in a real combat situation.
“Hall is one of the most knowledgeable and caring chaplain assistant NCOs I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with,” Slone said.
Staff Sgt. Ronnie Collins, a California National Guardsman with the 79th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, kicked off the training with a briefing in which he taught the chaplain assistants different levels of alertness and how to deal with stress in combat.
“Fear makes men forget,” said Collins, who teaches a Department of Defense police academy in San Diego. “You’ve got to have these skills embedded in you.”
After the briefing portion of the training, Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Maia, a range NCOIC with 1st CAB, 1st Inf. Div., led the chaplain assistants in physical exercise before firing their rifles during the hands-on phase of the training.
During the first iteration, the chaplain assistants did pushups for one minute then sprinted about 20 meters to the firing line to fire at paper targets from a prone supported position. The second iteration saw the chaplain assistants do a shuttle run, one minute of air squats, then fire from the prone unsupported position. During the last iteration, the chaplain assistants bear crawled to the firing line before doing a planking exercise and firing their rifles at the targets from a kneeling position.
“You can’t put a measure on it,” Maia said, about the importance of knowing how to fire a weapon with an increased heart rate.
The chaplain assistants who participated said the training was useful and unique.
“You really don’t get this anywhere else,” said Sgt. Ron Mohone, a reservist with the 207th Regional Support Group who is currently the garrison chaplain assistant NCOIC at KAF. “The training put us in a real-life situation as far as being fatigued and tired from running. It made it more real.”
Slone said the training was one of the best he has ever been a part of when it comes to security responsibility and providing protection for chaplains.
“This type of training should be instituted into the chaplain assistant curriculum,” Slone said. “They received confidence in their abilities. They were empowered. It gave them a lot more understanding of what their responsibilities truly are in a deployed environment.”
Sergeant Michael Spearman, a military policeman who is currently working as a chaplain assistant at Forward Operating Base Lindsey, enjoyed the training and said he “could use more of it.”
Lt. Col. Bill Harrison, the RC(S) command chaplain, also attended the training and encouraged the chaplain assistants.
“You are the force protection for the unit ministry team,” Harrison said.