by Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago
169th Fighter Wing/Public Affairs
7/31/2015 - MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- South
Carolina Air National Guard Chaplain, Lt. Col. Brian Bohlman and Master
Sgt. Charles Williams, noncommissioned officer in charge for the SCANG
Chaplain Corps, attended a three day symposium in Bogota, Colombia,
discussing how religion matters to military commanders, service members
and their families, July 13-16.
The symposium united representatives from 12 different countries from
the Caribbean, North, South and Central America, gaining an increased
awareness on the role religion can play in a service member's life, the
role of the chaplain in a military context and the ability of religion
to influence individual and institutions toward peaceful coexistence.
This U.S. Southern Command Senior Religious Leader Symposium was hosted
by Monsignor Fabio Suescun Mutis, Archbishop for the Colombian Military
in cooperation with the USSOUTHCOM Religious Affairs Office.
"Making that initial connection with the religious leaders was important
to me, I don't think the priests were aware of our State Partnership
Program with the Republic of Colombia," said Bohlman. "I've been wanting
to do something with the State Partnership Program and it [the
symposium] was just perfect."
Bohlman and Williams were able to hear what other countries are doing
with their chaplain programs. One program that stood out to them was the
Dominican Republic chaplains' participation in crisis response and are
very involved in their country's support during natural disasters.
"I discussed the importance of taking care of oneself following a crisis
in order to prevent burnout and compassion fatigue," said Bohlman. "I
also explained how the National Guard trains chaplains and chaplain
assistants in spiritual resiliency and traumatic event management to
help individuals recover following a traumatic event."
It was discovered during conversations, that the countries involved
share similar social issues like suicide, domestic violence and
alcoholism among their ranks.
"It brought a lot of conversation between the countries on what programs
were in place to help the service members and their families. We were
able to talk about how our Strong Bonds program and the chaplain's
assistant are tools to help in these issues," said Williams. "I was the
only National Guard chaplain assistant there, for them to see that
Chaplain Bohlman and I could work together as a team even though I'm
Catholic and he is Protestant, intrigued them on what we do as a team
and they wanted to find out how we made this work."
The trip was also used as an opportunity to mentor and encourage new
chaplains in their military roles to support the service member. This
allowed for camaraderie and fellowship around meals which those in
attendance said it felt like God's family at large and was a neat
"It was good for us as a Religious Support Team, Chaplain Bohlman's role
as the wing chaplain and my role as NCOIC is more administrative here.
This gave us an opportunity to grow together as an RST and to foster a
relationship between the country of Colombia and the United States,"
In a Colombia which is 90 percent Catholic, integration of religion in
the military creates a broader dialogue on how it can be used to
leverage it as a force for good.
"We believe the language of healing, hope and forgiveness is a religious
language and we believe that religion, along with diplomacy together,
can help bring about peace," said Bohlman.