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Chaplains bring spiritual help to soldiers via videoteleconferencing

by SSG Jack Siemieniec

FORT A.P. HILL, Va. � Soldiers deployed in the future may soon be able to find that a little spiritual help is as near as their computer or videocassette recorder, thanks to the work of one Army Reserve chaplain and some of his friends.

COL Dan Agee, the command chaplain for 311th Theater Signal Command headquartered at Fort Meade, Md., with the help of his associates, produced a video containing brief spiritual messages.

It was put to use during this year�s Grecian Firebolt, a worldwide communications exercise held June 15-30, when it was broadcast from here onto the Signal network by videoteleconferencing methods.

"We wanted to determine if we could use VTC. We tested the idea of putting up prerecorded video, devotionals, maybe even a field service or something like that," said Agee.

Agee allowed that while not every soldier has download or VTC capabilities now, all brigade chaplains involved in the exercise did.

"We can�t put a chaplain in every foxhole and make him or her available to every faith group that�s out there because the system just doesn�t allow that," he said. "What we can do is provide literature, provide a devotional, provide a face of another faith group for soldiers. That was the idea � to do a little five-minute devotional for each of the four major faith groups in the Army: Moslems, Jews, Catholics and Protestants."

For the videotape, Agee enlisted the help of a Moslem imam from Walter Reed Medical Center, Chap. (CPT) Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad; Naval Reserve Chap. (Lt. Cmdr.) Sal Aquilera, a Catholic priest who serves at Bethesda�s National Naval Medical Center; himself to handle the Protestant portion; and Chap. (COL) David Zalis, a Jewish rabbi who is also the assistant chief of chaplains for the Army.

Agee said the idea for the video came from his experiences as command chaplain for 311th, a position he�s held for the past three years.

"Much of what goes on in Signal units is in small pockets of people and moving constantly. How do we service those soldiers? Other than them coming back to a garrison area or something like that, how do we meet their spiritual needs? Maybe as we move on in technology, everywhere a soldier goes he�s literally going to have VCR capability. Then we can provide a service to every soldier," he said.

Agee said with the age of streaming video, digital videodiscs and other web-based solutions, those could also be possible solutions. "This is just a first step," he said.

To the best of Agee�s knowledge, this is the first time something like this had been done. But he�s not worried about putting himself out of a job via the web.

"Soldiers will always need to be able to find a chaplain, rabbi, priest or imam when they really need it and when they hurt or really need somebody to care."

SSG Siemieniec is an Army Reservist assigned to Army Signal Command.

Acronym QuickScan
VCR � videocassette recorder
VTC � videoteleconference(ing)

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