NJ National Guard chaplains, assistants train for trauma
By Airman 1st Class Julia Pyun, 108th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 05, 2015
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- "In our field, we're given a lot of training on counseling and pastoral skills," said Capt. David Kahler, a 108th Wing chaplain. "This training was specific to taking care of our Airmen. It helped me to look back on some traumatic events that have happened over my time as a chaplain. Going forward, I have the tools now where I can create better traumatic event management plans for whoever I might be serving under."
From Jan. 12 to Jan. 16, Kahler and other chaplains and chaplain assistants, both Air Force and Army from all over New Jersey, participated in the Army's Traumatic Event Management course held here at the Joint Force Headquarters building.
The TEM course has been around for four and half years and was created by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in San Antonio. The facility researched and gathered data to create a model for managing crisis situations.
"The goal is to enhance unit cohesion and effectiveness, said Val Wilson, a training specialist for the TEM course. "Feedback received said it was extremely beneficial, when bad things happened, individuals who took the course had a plan and knew what was going on with the military members."
Annually, the class holds six resident training courses in San Antonio and four scheduled mobile trainings to places such as Germany, Hawaii and Korea. They will go to units who have requested for the course, but not all units know about it.
"Word spreads. Other folks will talk about this training and say, 'Hey this was excellent because it prepares us for crisis management,'" said Wilson. "The National Guard is always called upon to respond to natural disasters. This training fits that requirement for them."
Lt. Col. Yaakov Bindell, the 108th Wing chaplain and the state support chaplain, was the one to coordinate this training session. He contacted all the units in New Jersey and notified them of this training. From there, anyone available and motivated showed up on the first day. The class had 24 members who were separated into four groups.
"We do a lot of small group work," said Michael J. Hagan, another training specialist. "The focus is applying their knowledge to our program versus us teaching them something brand new. We try not to do a lot of lecture."
The groups had many assignments involving discussions to come up with plans or solutions. A lot of emphasis was put on being active and preparing for the unknown.
"Start training for trauma before it happens not waiting until it happens and trying to figure out what to do then," said Hagan. "The more preparation you have beforehand, the easier it is to manage and go through the trauma when it does happen."
Each member had the opportunity to voice their opinion and input their experience. Role playing was the key way to incorporate hands on learning. Immediate feedback between classmates reinforced the ideas discussed during the week.
"I enjoyed the group work, especially the role-playing," said Staff Sgt. Jennifer Robledo, a 108th Wing chaplain assistant. "My absolute favorite part was when we got to come together as a group and teach the class. It was so much fun."
"Each group was given a different assignment from sleep hygiene class to stress management," said Hagan, another training specialist. "They'll take these general topics and have an hour to put together a 12 minute presentation. Not just briefing someone, but really training them."
At the end of the week, the training proved to be very beneficial.
"This woke up the importance of really knowing your resources," said Robledo. "You'll never know when you might need to pull them out for someone or even yourself. Something so simple can make the greatest difference. I feel confident that if there was an event to happen, we'll be able to respond."
"We challenged them from day one," said Wilson. "This group got really involved, the training has been excellent."