By Master Sgt. Franklin N. Vaughn
99th Readiness Division
The 99th Readiness Division’s Command Chaplain Directorate hosted a new training program virtually Sept. 8-10 for 38 Army Reserve chaplains and religious affairs specialists.
The event, titled “Army Reserve Command Battle Focused Training,” or ARC-BFT, was the second of a two-part pilot conducted by two readiness divisions.
According to Sgt. Maj. Daniel Roberts, chief religious affairs noncommissioned officer of U.S. Army Reserve Command, ARC-BFT is a new, aggressive initiative to equip chaplains and religious affairs specialists to operate effectively in a forward environment.
“The purpose of Battle Focused Training is to ensure that all USAR unit ministry teams, chaplain detachments, and chaplain staffs are fully prepared to provide effective religious support during large-scale combat operations,” said Roberts, who currently resides in Robbins, North Carolina. “The mature version of this program will be a model for how all (Chaplain Corps personnel) of all three Army components - active, National Guard and Reserve - will train.”
Roberts also stated that the relationships between readiness divisions and Army Reserve functional commands are key to the success of this program.
“This training will involve a close collaboration between the RDs and FCs,” Roberts pointed out. “Division-hosted events will provide an opportunity for UMTs across the Army Reserve to cross-train with each other, while functional command events throughout the year will train chaplains and religious affairs specialists on religious support in the context unique to that FC’s capabilities.”
This relationship, and the layers of training at all levels, will greatly enhance the Army Reserve’s ability to minister to troops at all levels of operation, Roberts added.
The new division-hosted training, originally scheduled to be in-person for all attendees, instructors, and staff facilitators, was moved to the virtual domain due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This presented some unique dynamics, according to Maj. Timothy Ippolito, 99th RD training and resource chaplain.
“There are inherent challenges in a virtual training environment,” said Ippolito, a resident of Freehold, New Jersey. “However, the participants’ level of engagement, coupled with experienced and knowledgeable instructors, made for a practical training experience.”
Staff Sgt. Timothy Adkins, operations noncommissioned officer for the 99th RD Command Chaplain Directorate, elaborated on those challenges and what it took to mitigate them.
“With virtual training, the biggest issue is access to the platform,” said Adkins, a native of Lufkin, Texas. “We had to work hard prior to the training to make sure everyone had an account and knew how to use the system we trained on. This took a lot of advance planning, communication with all parties involved, and coordination of not just where to be, but also when to be there.”
That hard work paid off, according to Adkins, who pointed out that there were minimal technical issues reported, resulting in a quality facilitation of training. This bodes well for the future of ARC-BFT, whether in-person or virtual.
“Army Reserve unit ministry teams, chaplain detachments and chaplain staffs will be the most highly trained religious support teams in the world,” Roberts said.