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NEWS | April 15, 2024

VNG Chaplains gather for joint sustainment training

By Staff Sgt. Marc Heaton | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

More than 40 chaplains and religious affairs specialists personnel from the Virginia Army National Guard, Virginia Air National Guard, and the Virginia Defense Force came together for a two-day Joint Chaplain Annual Sustainment Training event April 13-14, 2024, at the Virginia National Guard’s Sergeant Bob Slaughter Headquarters at Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia.

The theme for this year’s training was “Spiritually Ready and Professionally Equipped”, with the goal being to give chaplains ways to bolster their own spirituality and inner fire for the important work they do, while also embracing new and changing approaches to that work explained Col. Seung Lee, the VNG state chaplain. 

Maj. Gen. James W. Ring, the Adjutant General of Virginia, opened the event with remarks to those assembled. Ring stressed the critical role fulfilled by the religious support teams throughout the VNG.

“The work that you all do within our chaplains team to build readiness within our formations, and to sustain readiness and resilience within our formations, it is absolutely vital,” said Ring. 

A number of topics were covered over the two days, including the Building Strong and Ready Teams program, chaplain-specific Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program training, and Large-Scale Contingency Operations training, as well as updates from the VaANG and VDF religious support teams, and the 29th Infantry Division chaplain.

A key message Lee wanted to convey was that chaplains and their religious support teams are an available and ready resource within a comprehensive support system for servicemembers, and this goes beyond just for their spiritual needs.

“I want to broaden the aperture on how commanders, as well as Soldiers and Airmen view their chaplains, so they see that we are here to help build a more ready fighting force,” said Lee. “Chaplains are capable of helping with a whole host of issues Soldiers [and Airmen] experience, whether its major life stressors, problems at home or at work, with a supervisor, or just building a team.”

“It’s not enough for us to just do ministry,” said Lt. Col. Brett Johnson, full-time support chaplain with the VNG’s Joint Force Headquarters, echoing the theme of this year’s JCAST event. “It’s a given fact that we need to be excellent in ministering to soldiers and families, but we must also be excellent in all aspects of our mission including staff work. In order to be effective in sustaining others, we must first ensure that we are sustaining ourselves spiritually.”

Another key take-away from the weekend’s training is the Army’s new Building Strong and Ready Teams program, which has replaced the Strong Bonds program. This new program is focused on building spiritual readiness for soldiers and their families through events for families, couples and single Soldiers and Airmen. 

“We come together, as the Chaplain Corps within the state, for this event and then each team will go back to their unit to revisit this during drills and annual training,” added Johnson. “The idea is that each Unit Ministry Team will take the concept for BSRT and develop a plan for implementing it at the unit level.”

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