Kentucky Guard chaplains meet for annual training conference

By Master Sgt. Phil Speck, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Chaplain (Col.) David Graetz, Kentucky Joint Forces Headquarters chaplain, answers questions from fellow chaplains, chaplain candidates, and assistants during the annual Joint Chaplaincy Corps Training Conference held at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base on Oct. 15. The corps uses the conference to prepare for upcoming events, new programs and policy changes such as the recent repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Jason Ketterer)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. — More than 40 chaplains, chaplain candidates and assistants from the Kentucky Army and Air National gathered here Oct. 15 for the annual Joint Chaplaincy Corps Training Conference.

The meeting is held at the beginning of every fiscal year to prepare the corps for upcoming events, new programs and policy changes such as the recent repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, said Chaplain (Col.) David Graetz , Joint Force Headquarters chaplain and the state chaplain for the Army Guard.

The chaplains conduct other training throughout the year, but this conference is the only one to include both Army and Air Guard troops.

“We want to make sure both sides of the house know what’s going on to make sure we all are on the same sheet of music,” Graetz said.

Master Sgt. Billy Lain, a chaplain assistant for the 123rd Airlift Wing, said the conference allowed him to gain a better understanding of how his Army counterparts function.

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1st Lt. Mark Slaughter, a Kentucky Army National Guard chaplain candidate and Yellow Ribbon coordinator for the Louisville region, and Spc. Nathan Smith, a chaplain assistant for the 2/138th Headquarters Battalion, share a smile during the annual Joint Chaplaincy Corps Training Conference held at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base on Oct. 15. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Jason Ketterer)

“The main benefit of working with our Army brethren is that it gives us a good working knowledge of how they operate and what the Army does,” Lain said.

One of the many of the events discussed was the Strong Bonds program, which sponsors marriage retreats and social events for single Soldiers and Airmen. The program educates troops about how to better manage the conflicts of balancing military and home life. It also helps Soldiers and Airmen prepare for lengthy deployments and re-establish relationships with family members after coming home. The program is administered by chaplains, assistants and candidates from both the Army and the Air Guard.

The conference also featured breakout sessions so the chaplains could meet with their individual staff members, and so Chaplain Graetz could meet with chaplain candidates to review their evaluations — something that normally is done by mail or over the phone.

“This also allows us have some face time together, get to know one another, get to know who’s out there,” said Graetz, who also is chief chaplain for the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Louisville. “Otherwise we would be out there as lone rangers doing our own thing.

“The Chaplaincy isn’t here for ourselves, it’s here for the needs of our Soldiers and our Airmen,” he added. “This conference is about how we can work together, assign the right chaplains to the right units, how we can coordinate our retreats and our single Soldier and Airmen events, and how we can do this in the best possible manner to take care of our servicemen and women.”