Can computers help teach the art of being a chaplain?

Probably not entirely, but they might help prepare chaplains for the challenges that lie ahead, according to an article by Mark Pinsky of the Religion News Service.  He writes:

The animated figure on the computer screen moves carefully among the wounded, darting from one fallen figure to another. Trailing the combat medics, the uniformed military chaplain kneels and performs “spiritual triage,” assessing who is dead, who is soon to die, and who is likely to survive.

For the dead, there is silent prayer; for the gravely wounded and those in pain, there are words of comfort. Checking dog tags to determine the faith of the fallen, the pastor uses language consistent with each faith tradition. At each point in the action, a prompt asks users what they think is the appropriate response, and then offers them feedback on their choices.

It is clear from the article that any such computer program is an adjunct to not a substitution for the mentoring and training only another human can provide.

“We shouldn’t confuse simulation trainers as replacements for chaplains or care providers,”  [Chaplain Jeff Zust, an Army lieutenant colonel and an EMT] said. “Trauma care and counseling need to be provided in person. There is no substitute for human contact in training.”

Navy Chaplain Josh Sherwin, 31, a rabbi who has deployed three times to Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, agrees.

“There is no way a classroom environment can prepare you,” he said. “But a simulation that puts you through realistic situations can be highly valuable.”

The article then concludes with information about another valuable tool — it is one you will recognize:

A 2010 documentary, “Chaplains Under Fire,” examines the roles of military clergy in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the complexities inherent in their service. The film shows chaplains visiting with soldiers in forward operating bases, watching over them in field hospitals, and meeting their flag-draped coffins when they are returned to the United States.

“It’s exhilarating to be in combat,” says Chaplain Bennett Sandford in the film, after escaping an improvised explosive attack unscathed. But before long, after praying over a slain Marine, the Baptist minister says, “the exhilaration went away.”

We never set out to make a training tool for the military.  But we cannot think of a higher honor than to see our work  being used to shape the chaplains of tomorrow.

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Filed under casualties, chaplains, chaplains, documentary, First Amendment, military, religion, suicides, wounded warriors

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