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U.S. Army Reserve

 

 

 

 

 

 

IN THE NEWS

 

 

 

 

 

NEWS | Aug. 8, 2022

Army Reserve Chaplain Provides Support to the ‘Arctic Angels’

By LTC Kristin Porter 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support)

Alaska boasts of adventure, beauty, and awe-inspiring everything. But mostly Alaska is hard. Demanding. Severe. The environment is the adversary in every context, and it makes no reprieve with the already heavy load Soldiers and their families bear when stationed in U.S. Army Alaska.

With multiple suicides and higher levels of harmful behaviors among Soldiers and their families in Alaska, the Chief of Staff of the Army directed a shift in priorities earlier this year to support and resource Soldiers, civilians, and families serving in Alaska.

In efforts to provide the necessary resources, Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler, Commander, 11th Airborne Division, instituted the ‘Mission 100’ program which requires 100% of the ‘Arctic Angels’ Soldiers in Alaska meet with a professional counselor at least once each year.

“Mission 100 is a campaign to connect 100% of our Soldiers – leaders connected with Soldiers and Soldiers connected with each other,” said Eifler.

The Office of the Chief of Chaplains also surged a religious support package of 19 chaplains and four Religious Affairs Specialists to increase opportunities for pastoral care counseling at Behavioral Health Clinics and In-and-Out-Processing Centers. Many of the chaplains selected are certified in Marriage and Family Counseling, capable of providing spiritually integrated therapy for marriage, family, grief, trauma, stress, and several other areas.

Chaplain John VandenHeuvel, an Army Reserve chaplain from the 467th Medical Detachment Combat Operational Stress Control (COSC) in Madison, Wis., left a middle and high school teaching position to volunteer.

“… I prayed about it [and] decided I should only go if there was a great need…[and] God worked the timing well to provide coverage for my departure [in May].”

VandenHeuvel previously completed a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), a civilian program that provides pastors/chaplains experience in a clinical setting, which prepared him to do wellness counseling with Soldiers as a part of Mission 100 at Fort Wainwright.

Soldiers have a 30–45-minute session with a Military Family Life Counselor (MFLC) and chaplains to “introduce the Soldier to counseling as an additional resource available to them,” said VandenHeuvel. This is an opportunity “for them to have a conversation about any issues or struggles they might be facing with someone that cares and wants to help. The wellness counseling might lead to a follow-on session with the same counselor/chaplain, a referral to the Soldier’s unit chaplain or a MFLC, (or) direct Soldiers to additional resources that are available to them.”

VandenHeuvel, is scheduled for six counseling sessions per day, working with the MFLCs and two other chaplains. Two chaplains recently moved to embed with the behavioral health team and serve in the medical clinics. VandenHeuvel’s team originally conducted 72 sessions per day, but due to staffing reductions, they are currently doing 42 sessions per day, with a goal to see all Soldiers on Fort Wainwright by September. The team’s ambition, however, also brings to light the necessity of additional permanent resources and the reality of potentially burning out providers.

“The chaplains are not only here to provide care to the Soldiers but to help take care of the other providers as well. We have been able to help them manage their workload and assist with connecting Soldiers to the chaplain embedded in their unit and to other resources as the needs arise.”

Despite being one of the newest chaplains on the team, VandenHeuvel is grateful for the opportunity to serve on the mission and learn from the experienced chaplains on the team.

“It is an honor to be here serving God, my Country, and my brothers and sisters in the military. I am very excited to be a part of this mission and see what is in store for me in the next couple of months.”

Note: To ensure the continuity of care, the recommended duration of the chaplain deployments is at 179-day increments over 36 months beginning in May 22.