Kenyan, US Chaplains Exchange Best Practices
In an opportunity to engage with his U.S. military counterparts, a Kenyan Ministry of State for Defense chaplain spent three weeks exchanging best practices with Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa and Camp Lemonnier chaplains from multiple denominations to strengthen each other's military chaplaincy programs.
The visit, from August 29 to September 16, allowed KMoSD Muslim Imam (Major) Rajab Athumani to witness firsthand how his American counterparts interacted with service members from different services and denominations while seeing how different programs and facilities fit into the overall chaplaincy program.
"Every morning I came into the chapel and was assigned to one of the American chaplains," said Athumani, a Nairobi native, currently stationed at Moi Barracks, Kenya. "(The chaplains) showed me how they work from morning to evening."
While working with chaplains from a variety of religious backgrounds, Athumani was able to lead Muslim worship and prayer services; visit several camp facilities, such as the Fleet and Family Support Center; sit in on counseling and worship services; and meet with U.S. service members at their work centers.
"I wanted him to be truly embedded in the camp and to work side by side with the chaplains," said Chaplain (U.S. Navy Captain) Jon Cutler, a rabbi, the director of Religious Affairs for CJTF-HOA.
According to Cutler, a 26-year U.S. Navy veteran from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, having Athumani work directly with U.S. chaplains allowed each party to see how the other operated and learn from one another.
"Kenya is the only nation in East Africa that has an active military chaplaincy," said Cutler. "They have had a chaplaincy since their independence."
Because Kenya has a well-established chaplaincy, interacting with their chaplains is very beneficial, said Cutler.
"It's a once in a lifetime experience," he added.
Athumani echoed his sentiment saying, he learned different ways to reach out to troops, such as visiting them at their work centers and how outside agencies like Fleet and Family Support Center can be beneficial in helping those in need.
After three weeks with CJTF-HOA chaplains, Athumani was left with a lasting impression.
"I am better than before (the visit,)" said the 12-year KMoSD veteran. "It was a very beneficial visit."
The partnership between the nations' chaplain corps will continue beyond the imam's visit, with KMoSD Roman Catholic and Protestant chaplains slated to have similar visits in the coming months.
The CJTF-HOA, under command of U.S. Africa Command, conducts civil and non-combatant military operations in East Africa aimed to strengthening defense capability, promote regional stability and dissuade conflict.