National Guard’s Office of the Chaplain Reaches Out to Flood Fighters on Duty
VALLEY CITY, N.D. — The North Dakota National Guard Office of the Chaplain plays an active role in keeping up the morale of Guardsmen across the state during this year’s flood.
Chaplains visit servicemembers on duty to check working conditions and morale. They then relay this information back to the command so any changes that need to be made to improve those conditions can be done.
“The longer the activation, the more personal issues Guardsmen are going to have to deal with,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Brock Sailer, who has been working with Soldiers in Valley City. “So far, everybody is very optimistic.”
Because the Guardsmen have been activated for an emergency, it can be hard to find times to hold church services and gatherings. Guardsmen work 12-hour shifts, so many simply don’t have the energy for extra activities.
To make up for this, chaplains deliver daily devotionals to the Guardsmen at their duty locations so they can still have spiritual support, even if they can’t make it to a church service. Chaplains have even delivered Bibles on MP3 so Guardsmen can listen while on breaks.
“It really is ministry on the fly,” Sailer said. “We have to find them, be it at meal times or helping them with their jobs, so we can work and talk at the same time.”
Sailer has helped sandbag dikes and has walked numerous stretches of dikes with the dike patrollers. He says it is important to let them know you are there for them, and part of that is to work side by side with them.
“The chaplains are here to ensure we are squared away physically and mentally and to help any of us who have hardships while activated,” said Spc. Heidi Mittleider, of the 957th Engineer Company in Bismarck.
Those hardships can include making connections to assist with missed classes or work, but it also may mean simply offering a snack or hot cocoa in the middle of a long shift.
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) William Ziegler, state chaplain for the North Dakota National Guard, has done just that, as have Angie Christensen and Jane Johnson, licensed social workers employed to assist Guardsmen and their families through the Office of the Chaplain.
“We are here because it’s important for Soldiers to take care of themselves spiritually, not just physically,” Ziegler said. “It’s all about building that bond so they know they can rely on us.”
Ziegler and his team have traveled the state to visit troops activated for flood duty, making sure worship services are available and morale stays high. This may mean providing water for dike patrollers or walking the dikes with the Guardsmen to make the time pass faster.
“It’s all about the relationship we are trying to build, making sure they understand that we care about them during the time they spend away from their families,” said Chaplain Candidate (1st Lt.) Scott Noyes. “We have to encourage them in the efforts they are making in each of these communities.”
As Easter Sunday approaches, arrangements for services have been made for Guardsmen across the state who will be on flood duty during the holiday. Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general, will join Guardsmen in Valley City and Lisbon for Easter Sunday. Many communities, however, have sent warm invitations to Guardsmen on duty in their areas to attend church services alongside them in their towns. The community members say they are happy to have the Guardsmen there protecting property and lives, and would be grateful to spend time with them since the Guardsmen are away from their families.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,500 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, about a dozen North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas while more than 4,000 remain in the state for emergency response and national defense. For every 10,000 citizens in North Dakota, 65 serve in the North Dakota National Guard, a rate that’s more than four times the national average.
Photos: These and other high-resolution photos to accompany this release are available on Flickr. Navigate to the photo set titled “Office of the Chaplain – Flood 2011” — http://bit.ly/eawKh1.
Video: Video to accompany this release can be viewed and downloaded at http://www.dvidshub.net/video/112093/flood-welfare-checks.