Religious Support Teams providing hope after Ike

By NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs


TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – For the first time, military chaplains and the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster are collaborating their efforts to provide cohesive spiritual response to those affected by the next hurricane.

“During [Hurricane] Katrina, chaplains and religious advisors were reactive and working independently of each other,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col) Kenric Conway, 1st Air Force command chaplain. “During this storm season, we are much more proactive, and we are pulling our various capabilities together.”

Coordination between military and civilian organizations will provide support to deal with the storm’s devastation and help rebuild lives and communities devastated by hurricane damage.

Additionally, about 35 Army and Air Force religious support teams, which consist of a chaplain and a chaplain’s assistant, were prepositioned prior to landfall of Hurricane Ike to be on hand to respond to the spiritual and counseling needs of military members living and working in the affected areas.  An additional 80 religious support teams remain on standby to provide additional support if Hurricane Ike causes considerable destruction.

Religious support teams provide spiritual support, death notification, moral support and critical incident stress management, among other services.

Those affected by a natural disaster cannot predict how the sight, sound and smells of their ravaged community or personal property will affect them, said Chaplain Conway. Three years ago, the chaplain provided his spiritual and counseling services during Hurricane Katrina.  He suffered along with his congregation when his home in Biloxi, Miss., sustained damaged from the same storm.

“Many families spend their lives building – building homes, building communities – [and] all that can be taken away in 24 hours.  A hurricane reminds us what is really important – our faith, family, community and country – [and] puts everything into perspective,” said Chaplain Conway. “The chaplain becomes an ambassador for a greater cause; an ambassador for hope.”