The senior chaplain assigned to the Massachusetts National Guard visited Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and Kenya April 25-28, highlighting one of the National Guard’s lesser-known missions, building enduring partnerships through its State Partnership Program.
U.S. Army Col. Paul Minor met with his Soldiers deployed to CJTF HOA and visited Kenya, which is Massachusetts’ assigned country under the State Partnership Program. U.S. forces are in Kenya at the invitation of the Kenyan government. They operate in a close partnership with and hosted by Kenyan military facilities.
“We are here to share and learn best practices with our religious partners,” said Minor. “We aren’t here to presume we have things to teach, but rather things we can learn and ideas we can exchange.”
The SPP is a force multiplier that has helped build cooperative, mutually-beneficial relationships with 75 partnerships in 81 nations around the globe by leveraging whole-of-society relationships and capabilities to facilitate broader interagency engagements spanning military, government, economic and social spheres.
Kenya is one of thirteen countries paired with National Guard units in the U.S., and while this is the first religious affairs exchange in Kenya, Minor stressed that he has worked with other states and their religious partnership programs and has been impressed with the success; so he is confident he can develop relationships with his Kenyan counterparts.
“We are not just here to meet,” said Minor. “We are here to build connections, so there isn’t just an email or phone call to discuss skills and ideas. Anytime you can expand your network of support, you are gaining something to improve your ability to support other people.”
One of the engagements Minor said he was excited for was exchanging gifts with the Kenya Defense Force chaplains, especial the Chaplain Corps (ARNG) Handbook, because the cover of has the symbols of several religions.
“It’s all about diversity and inclusion,” Minor said. “We are supporting fighting forces that are derived of many backgrounds, and we can never stop learning how to support our troops better.”
In addition to the benefits of visiting Kenya, Minor and a Massachusetts National Guard chaplain candidate, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Luis Alvarez, visited with more than 80 CJTF-HOA Massachusetts National Guard Soldiers attached to Task Force Warrior, during a battlefield circulation at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
“It’s great being able to see our Soldiers over here, so they know our governor and state support them,” said Alvarez, who was an 11-year enlisted Soldier before applying to join the Chaplain Corps. “It can be a tough situation being deployed far away from family, and if we can just be here in person to say ‘Thank you,’ hear their concerns and see what we can do for them, they may feel just a little more appreciated. I know it would mean a great deal to me.”