Kenyan, US Chaplains Continue to Strengthen Chaplaincy Programs

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti, (Oct. 22, 2011) - Kenyan Ministry of State for Defense Chaplain (Major) Lucas Gatobu, a Catholic priest serving as a Kenyan Air Force chaplain, raises a chalice as part of a consecration ritual during Catholic mass at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, October 22. Gatobu 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. (U.S. Air Force photo Staff Sergeant Stephen Linch)  CJTF-HOA Photo CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti, (Oct. 22, 2011) - Kenyan Ministry of State for Defense Chaplain (Major) Lucas Gatobu, a Catholic priest serving as a Kenyan Air Force chaplain, raises a chalice as part of a consecration ritual during Catholic mass at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, October 22. Gatobu 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. (U.S. Air Force photo Staff Sergeant Stephen Linch)

A Kenyan Ministry of State for Defense chaplain recently spent three weeks exchanging best practices with Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa and Camp Lemonnier chaplains from multiple faiths to strengthen each other's military chaplaincy programs.

The second of three Kenyan chaplains to visit Camp Lemonnier during a familiarization program was KMoSD Chaplain (Major) Lucas Gatobu, a Catholic priest and Kenyan Air Force chaplain. He witnessed firsthand how his American counterparts interacted with service members from different services and denominations, in addition to how different programs and facilities fit into the overall chaplaincy program.

"I have been here to experience and get familiar with the way the American chaplains work," said Gatobu, a native of Meru, Kenya, currently stationed at the Kenyan Air Force Headquarters in Nairobi. "So what I have been doing here is learning and interacting with other chaplains."

While working with chaplains from a variety of religious backgrounds, Gatobu led a Catholic mass; attended of other religions; visited several camp facilities, such as the Fleet and Family Support Center; took part in training, such as the American Red Cross life saver course; and met with U.S. service members.

"He actually went around with us and the other chaplains and saw what we did first hand," said U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Lieutenant Colonel) Bill O'Sullivan, CJFT-HOA Religious Affairs deputy director. "We feel that the information that we impart will be very useful and helpful."

The partnership benefits both nations, O'Sullivan said.

"Chaplain Gatobu is providing us with a familiarization of the Kenyan Ministry of State for Defense chaplain corps as well," said O'Sullivan, a 17-year veteran. "It is a cultural and organizational exchange of methods and approaches to professional military chaplaincy."

During his stay, Gatobu said he noticed a few differences in the nations' chaplaincy programs.

Kenyan chaplains use buildings specific to their religion whereas American chaplains from different religious backgrounds use the same facility, he said.

"The chaplains here, while using the same chapel, are actually learning together and executing their plans together," said Gatobu. "They have a lot that we can borrow and use."

After three weeks with CJTF-HOA and Camp Lemonnier chaplains, Gatobu was left with a lasting impression.

"It makes me a better chaplain. It makes me have a wider outlook on things," said Gatobu. "It is really going to take me a long way in improving my services."

The priest's visit continues the partnership between the nations' chaplain corps. A KMoSD Muslim chaplain previously had a similar visit here and a KMoSD Protestant chaplain is slated to visit in the coming months.

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