U.S. chaplains conduct counseling training for Malawi Defense Force0 Comments

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Posted on 29 Mar 2013 at 4:30pm

By Sgt. Terysa M. King, U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs
Hardships that come with returning from a deployment can greatly affect Soldiers and their family members. This concept not only applies to American Soldiers, but Soldiers from other countries as well.

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In an effort to help soldiers of the Malawi Defense Force (MDF) deal with redeployment challenges, two U.S. Chaplains traveled to Lilongwe, Malawi to teach solution-focused therapy concepts to 28 MDF chaplains and chaplain assistants March 4-8.

Chap. (Lt. Col.) Scott A. Hammond, U.S. Army Africa deputy chaplain, said MDF soldiers are facing some of the same challenges as American Soldiers just coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan.

“The timing is right because they [MDF] are experiencing the same things we do when coming back from a deployment, such as finances, marriage/family counseling, drugs and alcohol — similar things that our

Soldiers go through,” said Hammond, a Millersburg, Ohio native. “Because they don’t have a lot of the agencies we have, they wanted a tool to use like military family life consultants and behavior health,” he said.

Chap. (Col.) Augustine Matchumbuza, MDF chief of chaplains, said he is very grateful for the U.S. chaplains conducting solution-focused therapy counseling because the MDF is preparing to send their soldiers on deployments to the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Ivory Coast to support peace keeping missions.

“This training comes at an opportune time because it will help us beome updated and empowered. We are living in a world that is changing every day. If the chaplains are not updated in their approach to counseling, they will be behind the times,” Matchumbuza said.

The solution-focused therapy training focused on discovering the challenges MDF faces upon redeployment and how to move toward a solution using several counseling methods and techniques. Chap. (Lt. Col.) Jason E. Duckworth, director of clinical supervision of the Family Life Chaplain Training Center at Fort Hood, Texas, said solution-focused pastoral counseling is one of the main models taught at the Family Life Chaplain Training Center. The purpose of training is to give MDF the basics of practical exercises that apply to counseling situations MDF might face.

“Some of the goals were to help MDF gain an understanding of basic techniques of solution-focused pastoral counseling and have an increased confidence in their ability to counsel soldiers and family members. Ultimately, the goal is to build teamwork not only between ourselves and Malawi chaplains and assistants, but to do some activities to help them build teamwork among themselves,” said Duckworth, a Tulsa, Okla. native.

Hammond said along with gaining understanding and confidence in solution-focused counseling, one of the most important goals is to leave MDF chaplains and chaplain assistants with a capability they can use long after U.S. chaplains are gone.

“We want to leave them [MDF] with a capability to be better counselors. We’ll give them a little bit of instruction, and we’ll have them role-play the challenges their families and soldiers face,” Hammond said. “We don’t want to give them an American solution, we want to give them a tool they can use to adapt to their own culture,”

During the closing ceremony, Gen. Henry Odillo, MDF commander, said the work the U.S. chaplains do with MDF is crucial and he knows the knowledge shared during the training will go a long way in the duties of MDF chaplains and chaplain assistants.

“The Defence Force expects a lot from you [MDF chaplains] and if soldiers are to be God-fearing, full of hope and stress-free, it will be you providing the much needed counsel and spiritual food to them. We must acknowledge, because of the demanding nature of our job, soldiers and their families go through a lot. But we count on you as the light that can guide the institution, raise its morale and help it to remain united,” Odillo said during his speech.

Matchumbuza said he is always happy to see U.S. Chaplains because the interaction helps improve relationships and MDF chaplain proficiency.

“Training will improve Malawi and U.S. Chaplains…you can learn from books, you can learn from the internet, but it’s different when there is face-to-face interaction. For U.S. Chaplains to come here is a sign the U.S. has us in their hearts,” Matchumbuza said.

Duckworth also agrees that interaction is important, and he said he gained a lot of experience as well.

“Nothing beats face-to-face interaction. We’re working on strategies to continue their [MDF] learning and to continue our relationship so we can learn to preach our skills through vehicles like e-mail and Skype. We’re definitely looking at how to expand our relationships beyond our training here together. The more we learn about the Malawi Defense Force and the more they learn about us will benefit both sides,” Duckworth said.


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