Following more than a decade of civil war and destruction, the Armed Forces of Liberia is being reconstructed with the help of the U.S. Army to develop a stronger and more modern military -- one of those ways is through their chaplaincy.
Colonel Scottie R. Lloyd, director of personnel in Ecclesiastical Relations for the U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains, and Major Allen Staley, U.S. Army Africa chaplain, traveled to Edward Beyan Kesselly Barracks in the capital city of Monrovia January 2012 to provide essential training on the basics of supporting a modern chaplaincy to 18 AFL chaplains and volunteers.
Lloyd said the AFL has a well established base of operations with an official chaplain, chaplain assistants and volunteers; however, they need more knowledge on the basics of chaplaincy.
"We want to help assist the Armed Forces of Liberia's emerging chaplaincy to develop into a strong, viable force multiplier and a better trained and organized chaplaincy that supports the commander's mission and provides the best religious support to soldiers and their families," Lloyd said.
AFL Chief of Chaplains 1st Lieutenant Dessaline Allison said the AFL cannot build a military without religious support because the soldiers' religious views are essential for morale. Since the AFL is in its foundational stages, most of their chaplains haven't received training in the past.
"They have the desire to work, and they have the desire to serve and provide support to the troops, yet they lack the basic training skills to reach out. We were seeking an opportunity to help sharpen the skills of these volunteers to reach out to the soldiers," Allison said.
Some of the classes included topics such a roles and functions of a staff, briefing skills, assessing religious needs, introduction to counseling, pastoral and counseling crises and grief counseling issues.
"We don't tell people what they ought to look like. We don't order them around; we don't say 'Hey you gotta look just like us.' We provide information, we provide our experiences and share that with them as they themselves make their own decisions on how their chaplaincy is going to look," Lloyd said. Staley said these classes are important so AFL chaplains can understand their role as chaplains to help the military have a successful chaplaincy and become successful armed forces.
"Partnering with us provides them with an opportunity to reach that goal so it's important for them to know they have a partner who will work with them in pursuing this goal. The end result for them is [to be more developed] as a professional military chaplaincy [so they can attain their] goals," Staley said. Future plans are being made to send AFL chaplains to the United States to attend formal schools for U.S. Army chaplains as part of the International Military Education Training program.
"We look forward to future trainings [and] future partnerships with the [United States] to help sharpen our skills and make our military a powerful one," Allison said.