CAMP MARMAL, Afghanistan - Chaplains from Europe and the U.S. took part in the first ever chaplains conference at Camp Marmal in Balkh Province, Afghanistan, Nov. 13. Maj. Billy Graham, chaplain, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade joined fellow chaplains from the U.S., Germany, Sweden, Norway and Croatia in an international exchange of faith and fellowship.
It was a chance to share worship and scripture, said Graham. It was also a chance to exchange ideas on how to minister to the troops, share commonalities and give the other chaplains someone to reach out to if they need it.
In the U.S. Army, chaplains ensure that the spiritual needs of Soldiers are met, and when they need help, they often seek out each other to regain the strength needed to continue ministering to soldiers. For the chaplains in other countries' forces, that may not always be possible because of the size of units that are deployed to Afghanistan.
"As a chaplain, you are like a battery," said Father Romanus Kohl, a Roman Catholic priest serving as a chaplain in the German army. "You always have to give energy. Who fills the battery?"
The idea of this conference was the result of a courtesy visit to the host nation chaplain's office during a battlefield circulation visit. Out of that visit came the idea for the chaplains' conference.
"It was not an encounter of chance," said Graham. "It took ten years to get to this conference, because if it happened before, there is no record of it. This was an encounter of providence. We need to be coalition partners when it comes to ministry, as well."
During the conference it was decided that the conference should not be a singular occurrence. Partnering with other nations to ensure the spiritual well being of all soldiers is essential to good morale and stable units.
"Participating in the conference will become part of our standing operating procedures," said Graham. "In January, there will be all new European chaplains. That will be the beginning of the continuity."
In the end, it is not just about the chaplains. Serving the needs of the soldiers is the mission of the chaplains and the chaplains' assistants.
"I think the conference benefits everyone," said Staff Sgt. Ulysses Stewart, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade chaplain's assistant. "As a noncommissioned officer, you want to find whatever is available to fill the soldiers' spiritual needs."