IN THE NEWS
U.S. Army Africa and along with other military personnel provided religious support in Liberia for Operation United Assistance, a humanitarian effort to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa. (U.S. Army Africa photos)
By Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Deppmeier for U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs
VICENZA, Italy – U.S. Army Africa, along with other military services, provided support in Liberia to Operation United Assistance to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in West African nations.
U.S. Army Africa Command Chaplain, Chaplain (Col.) Charles Reynolds, and his chaplain assistant, Staff Sgt. Chris Corbett, provided religious support to personnel from the U.S. Agency for International Development, known as USAID, the Center for Disease Control, or CDC, and the United States Embassy.
Reynolds and Corbett conducted worship services and counseling for Air Force medical teams, Navy Seabees, and U.S. Army Africa, known as USARAF, Soldiers. In addition, they prepared for USARAFs primary mission to set up the follow-on religious support by the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
Reynolds recently took a moment from his duties to discuss his ministry and mission in Liberia.
Q: Tell us about your mission in Liberia.
A: USARAF supported the Joint Force Command/Armed Forces Liberia Operations assisting USAID, the CDC, and the U.S. Embassy in constructing treatment centers, providing testing labs for victims and training health care workers to counter the Ebola virus in Liberia. We provided religious support to USAID and Embassy personnel, many of whom have experienced first-hand the trauma caused by the Ebola virus. In addition, we provided Title 10 religious support requirements to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines participating in Operation United Assistance.
Q: What is the morale of our U.S. deployed personnel in Liberia?
A: Overall, morale is high. The risk to U.S. personnel is very low. We are very cautious, and wash our hands often. No one shakes hands or touches anyone. Instead, we bump arms. We are also checking our temperature twice a day. No one has direct contact with Ebola patients, so the risk of contracting Ebola is very low. Most Soldiers are more concerned about Family members who are worried about their safety. The greater danger to Soldiers is Malaria, or injuries from traffic accidents, since driving conditions are very different here.
Q: How are you ministering and providing support?
A: Whether in Liberia or in a combat zone, it's important to assure our Soldiers, Sailors and Airman of God's presence. I try to remind our personnel of the importance of what we are doing and how we're offering hope to a nation that has been devastated. The importance of what we are doing is monumental for the Liberian people. We are making a difference in one of the largest epidemics of our lifetime. In three weeks, we have provided more logistical support to build treatment centers than all previous efforts combined. Caring for and offering hope to those who are suffering is at the heart of a chaplain's mission. God does not call chaplains and chaplain assistants to a life of safety; we are called to risk our lives to minister to those who need assurance of God's presence.