JAF Imams and U.S. Chaplains coordinatation leads to success on two fronts

U.S. Army Central
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes

Date: 04.23.2018
Posted: 04.25.2018 09:33
News ID: 274396
JAF Imams and U.S. Chaplains coordinatation leads to success on two fronts

AMMAN, Jordan – When U.S. Army Chaplain (Maj.) Pinkie Fischer first met with Imams from the Jordan Armed Forces she didn’t know that their religious affairs exercise would turn into her and about 40 other service members affecting the lives of local orphans just two weeks later.

Fischer, the Chaplain for the U.S. Army Central Contingency Command Post, and the other religious affairs service members were in Amman participating in Exercise Eager Lion 2018, a two-week bilateral military exercise lead by the JAF involving about 3,500 U.S. military members.

The idea came out while discussing ways to combat religious extremism at the Jordanian Center for Countering Extremism April 11, where they met King Abdullah’s Grand Mufti as he expressed how civilian and military Imams work together cooperatively in providing religious support.

“The bigger picture was that in the middle of our exercise, to take a tactical pause to go and be a blessing to the children,” said Fischer. “This was really what the end state to strengthen our partnership and our cooperation between the U.S. and the Jordan Armed Forces was about.”

After receiving permission from the Grand Mufti, the JAF Imams, Fischer and other U.S. and JAF religious affairs service members arranged the visit to the Amman SOS Children’s Village April 23. During the visit they played with the children, handed out soccer balls, age-specific toys, and household items to children who are sponsored at the village and their relatives.

“They were really, really excited. They knew for a week that the U.S. Army would be coming here and they wanted to play with them,” said SOS project accountant, Dalia Quasem.

The children were not the only ones who were excited for the visit.

The JAF and U.S. servicemembers arrived and immediately began playing with the children. They engaged in a wide range of activities, from playing soccer, to having push-up contests, to giving piggy-back rides for about two hours.

“It’s hard to explain, but I just feel an intense love for these kids. My dad died when I was 13… so I grew up alone, so I feel a connection,” said U.S. Army Maj. John Salazar, an information operations officer with U.S. Army Central. Salazar drew on his upbrinigng in New York by teaching the younger children how to fist bump, and explaining that he was from the same place the Super Man and Spider Man were from.

"I was very happy to see the soldiers," said Liza, a 13-year-old resident of the village. "I want to be a soldier one day," said through an interpreter.

While some of the service members were getting to know the children on an interpersonal level, some of the leadership was laying ground work for how to continue support to the village. The village was originally founded by the JAF and is now run by the SOS, but Fischer explained that there is a potential for USARCENT to provide ongoing support.

“It was a win-win for both the U.S. and the Jordanian Imams because it was something that we actually planned together. There was that partnership in the planning and the partnership in the execution,” said Fischer. “We can look at planning beyond this one event and see how we can continue that relationship.”