U.S. Army Africa chaplains help Senegalese forces with combat stress
By Rich Bartell, U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs
DAKAR, Senegal – Recently, in their first-ever military-to-military event in Senegal, chaplains from U.S. Army Africa instructed Senegalese armed forces medical personnel on effects of combat and operational stress.
USARAF Chaplains Col. Charles Reynolds and Lt. Col. Sid Taylor, accompanied by Vermont Army National Guard Chaplain Maj. Kurt Gieb, working in what is known as a traveling contact team, conducted training at Hospital Principal in Dakar, Senegal.
“We had an interesting week in Senegal. We presented classes to Senegalese armed forces medical personnel on combat and operational stress control. Normally, we provide this type of instruction to chaplains and medical personnel. However, the Senegalese armed forces don’t have a chaplains’ corps,” Reynolds said. “We adapted our course of instruction for presentation to medical doctors, psychologists, nurses and even a few dentists. We conducted an information exchange with 25 Senegalese armed forces medical officers with a high degree of interest in the subject.”
According to Reynolds, civil strife has occurred since the 1980s in Senegal. Additionally, Senegal’s military has participated in United Nations peacekeeping missions in Africa as well.
“The effects of operational and combat stress are part of most military organizations, whether it’s in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world. With more than 10 years of conflict, U.S. Army chaplains have learned and gathered a tremendous amount of information dealing with this kind of stress,” Reynolds said. “Our main goal was to provide tools for the Senegalese medical professions to share with others in their armed forces. The Senegalese shared how they treat combat stress and especially suicide prevention. The Senegal military has a low suicide rate,” he said.
Taylor said the tempo of operations for Senegalese military is diverse and demanding.
“With ongoing civil conflicts and peacekeeping missions, Senegalese soldiers can be moved from a combat mission to a peacekeeping mission within a short period of time. This raises concerns about the impact on their families,” Taylor said. “Additionally, the Senegalese behavioral health professionals shared that there are a limited number of health assets to provide immediate care when needed.” Reynolds shared how military Chaplains serve as staff officers to advise commanders on operational stress issues and that as medical officers they could do the same.
“As staff officers and advisers to commanders, these chaplains will have great influence in addressing combat and operational stress issues for their soldiers,” Reynolds said. He said future TCTs are being considered that will cover areas of interest such as family life, ethics and conflict resolution.
For Reynolds, the week-long event was his first military-to-military mission as the USARAF Chaplain.
“Monday I was in a room full of strangers, today I share a room with a group of friends. I hope we can build on the foundation of friendship,” Reynolds said during the event’s closing ceremony.