News: Service members observe Easter during African Lion 2012
Story by Sgt. Lydia Davey
AGADIR, Morocco – Service members participating in African Lion 2012 observed Easter services in the field with a reserve chaplain from both 14th Marine Regiment and a chaplain candidate from the Utah National Guard. African Lion is an annual bilateral training exercise held in the Kingdom of Morocco that enhances interoperability and understanding between U.S. and Royal Armed Forces military. The chaplains held services in five different locations throughout Morocco.
“The service members in this exercise regard the Chaplain, I believe, as a morale booster,” said Religious Program Specialist 1st Class (Fleet Marine Force) Charles Youngblood, a member of the 14th Marines’ religious ministry team. “The support from the Marines down at Cap Draa [in the Tan Tan region] was exceptional. They took real ownership of their camp chapel.”
While deployed service members around the world often spend important dates like birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s day and even Christmas or Easter away from home, it is rare for a reserve unit to schedule their annual training exercise during a major religious holiday.
Lt. Col Stanton Chambers, the chief of staff for the African Lion 12 Joint Task Force, explained the annual exercise is typically conducted later in the spring but this year’s exercise was moved to an earlier date because of the opportunity to incorporate the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit into the training. “The MEU brings robust amphibious and aviation assets that enhance the nature of training between the U.S. and Moroccans,” Stanton said.
Youngblood said the change in dates did not affect the religious ministry team’s preparation for African Lion. The standard ‘mount-out’ box he prepares for the chaplain’s deployments contain everything from vestments, rosaries, bibles, host and sacramental wine as well as all necessities for services in multiple denominations.
Cdr. Richmond Stoglin, chaplain for the 14th Marine Regiment said, “For us, it is imperative that the religious ministry team be a part of the training to offer the warriors spiritual guidance.”
Stoglin maintains an active presence in all the task force locations throughout Morocco. He held three special services on Easter Sunday in the Cap Draa/Tan Tan area, where the largest portion of Task Force service members are located. Another service was held that evening in Agadir near the TF headquarters, and one other two days later in Tifnit, near the Peace Support Operations training area.