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Military chaplains in fight against forces’ suicides

Posted on: August 2, 2016 10:39 AM
Bishop Lambert (centre) gathers for prayer with US and Australian chaplains.
Photo Credit: Staff Sgt Victor Joecks / US Army

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] Military chaplains are working across the globe to care for the spiritual wellbeing of armed forces personnel in a bid to prevent suicide – a significant issue amongst military veterans. And last week, the Anglican Bishop to the Australian Defence Force (ADF), Bishop Ian Lambert, visited his American counterparts at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait to pray and to discuss “the challenges and rewards of being a military chaplain.”

While in Kuwait, Bishop Lambert met with members of the ADF serving in the Middle East; and held discussions with two chaplains serving members of the US Army, Lieutenant Colonel Dan Knaup from the Episcopal Church and Captain Ian Burgess from the Anglican Church in North America; and two Australian chaplains, Captain Murray Lund and Lieutenant Colonel Sarah Gibson.

The chaplains agreed that caring for a service member’s spiritual wellbeing is an important key to preventing suicide. “The principle that we are spiritual beings must be brought regularly to our commanders,” Bishop Lambert said.

Lieutenant Colonel Knaup told Bishop Lambert that spiritual strength was one of the five pillars of the US Army’s current resiliency training; and he demonstrated on of the US tool’s for suicide prevention: Ace cards. The cards encourage soldiers to “Ask, Care and Escort” battle buddies with suicidal thoughts.

“I was glad to see Chaplain Lambert’s concern for service members,” Captain Burgess said. “It’s great to see that in Australia they’re using some of the same programs – like the ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) program – and that it’s bearing results there.”

During their meeting, the chaplains prayed for peace, and for protection and courage for service members of the coalition and partner nations.

On his return to Sydney, Bishop Lambert, who had 20 years of active service in the ADF before ordination, called for Anglican clergy and their spouses, and those considering or training for vocational ministry in Australia, to attend an information day on Thursday (4 August) at Randwick Barracks which is being held to challenge others to join in ministry as service chaplains.