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Chaplains support Muslim Soldiers by finding common ground
ROSEMOUNT, Minn. - The Soldiers of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division had a unique opportunity to speak with one of the U.S. Army's five Muslim chaplains April 7-10, 2017. U.S. Army Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Khallid Shabazz, I Corps deputy command chaplain, travelled from Fort Lewis, Washington, to Minnesota to provide professional development for the division chaplain section.
"Soldiers perform at a higher level when they are spiritually fit," said Minnesota National Guard Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Buddy Winn, the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division command chaplain. "And, it's our job as chaplains to make sure Soldiers have their spiritual needs met, regardless of faith. Having Chaplain Shabazz here as a Muslim Chaplain provides the diversity in religious background that we can't provide internally."
There are five major religions supported by the chaplaincy: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist, but over 200 religions are recognized. Chaplains can only perform services for their particular religion, but they can provide support for all Soldiers, regardless of their faith.
"Chaplains embrace cooperation without compromise," said Winn. He explained that chaplains are able to provide support to Soldiers of all religions without compromising their own faith's beliefs.
Shabazz told Minnesota Muslim community members, during a Q&A session at the Masjid An Nur in North Minneapolis, that a large part of what chaplains provide is support for non-religious issues. While at the mosque, Shabazz performed a Muslim service for attendees. A few Muslim Soldiers of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division were in attendance.
"People were surprised that accommodations were made for Muslim Soldiers," Staff Sergeant Alkali Yaffa said of the reaction by some Muslim community members during the Q&A. Yaffa, an admin non-commissioned officer with B Company, Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, encourages other Muslim Soldiers to put themselves out there.
"You don't have to hide your religion," he said. "As long as you are doing the right thing, you don't need to be worried."
Yaffa, originally from Gambia, was hesitant to share with his command the fact that he was Muslim, but is glad he did because of the amount of support he has received.
"Even in Iraq we did not have any issues," he said. "I was the brigade guidon bearer, up in front of everyone. Thirteen people applied for my job and I was selected. It does not matter what your religion is. You are judged by your performance."
Winn coordinated the meeting with the Muslim community members, but admitted that having Shabazz there helped to provide credibility to his efforts. There was a lot to be gained from Shabazz's visit, Winn said.
Shabazz said Winn had a lot of courage to reach out to engage the Muslim community Shabazz. Everyone was able to set aside their biases and find common ground.
When asked why he felt it was important to reach out to local Muslim community members, Winn said, "We need our chaplaincy to reflect our formations."
"The trip was a success," said Shabazz. "I came to talk with the team about what units need to do to provide support to all religions... A chaplain must make sure people from all walks of life are taken care of regardless of faith."
April 18, 2017 by Master Sgt. Ashlee Sherrill
34th Red Bull Infantry Division Public Affairs
Posted: 2017-04-26 02:09 PM CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The Department of Defense announced that Camp Ripley was selected as the winner of the Secretary of Defense Environmental Award for Natural Resources Conservation, Large Installation.
The awards recognize individuals, teams and installations for their exceptional environmental achievements and innovative, cost-effective environmental practices.
"The winners' efforts strengthen the Department of Defense's position as a resourceful environmental steward, both at home and abroad, and demonstrate our continued commitment to fulfilling mission needs through advanced environmental practices and technologies," stated James A. MacStravic, performing the duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
Posted: 2017-04-26 10:57 AM COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. - Staff Sgt. Nicquie Neely has been working with victims of sexual assault for four years in the Minnesota National Guard and also volunteers as a victim advocate in the community. As a victim advocate, it's her job to believe and support victims through a difficult process that can often involve extensive medical care and legal proceedings.
"Ever since I joined the Guard and heard about the SHARP program and learned what a victim advocate was, I always wanted to be one," said Neely. "And then I learned that you had to be an E-6 to be in that position, so the minute I got promoted I asked my commander if I could go to the training."
Neely is a combat medic and the full-time training and administration NCO with Company C, 134th Brigade Support Battalion. In addition to military victim advocate training, Neely also attends regular training with the civilian organization she volunteers for - SOS Sexual Violence Services in Ramsey County.
Posted: 2017-04-24 10:43 AM Washington - Members of the Minnesota National Guard and the Air Force Reserve traveled to Washington D.C. with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (also known as the JCRC), to visit the Holocaust Museum, April 4, 2017, to honor the victims of the Holocaust. Also, traveling with this group were St. Paul and Minneapolis police officers along with students from various high schools around the state. For those in uniform that day, it was an opportunity to see, hear and experience the stories of victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
Each Service member who attended was asked to bring back a summary of their experience in the form of a presentation, professional discussion or briefing to their respective unit in order to help other Guard members better understand and remember that horrible event, to honor the courage of the victims and survivors, and to remain vigilant as members of the U.S. military.
"The honor and privilege of accompanying members of the Minnesota National Guard to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. met so many goals," said Steve Hunegs, the executive director of the JCRC. "I wanted to reinforce the importance of the commitment of the U.S. military to democracy. After all, it was the Allies that defeated Nazi Germany and ultimately put an end to the Holocaust."
Posted: 2017-04-19 02:15 PM CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - It was a challenging and rewarding two weeks for members attending the Army National Guard Funeral Honors Instructor Course, April 1-14, at Camp Ripley.
Soldiers of National Guard units from all over the United States took part in the course designed to educate team leaders in a variety of funeral honor detail tasks, traditions and responsibilities.
"It's a stressful course, but for our job, we have to be prepared to do our job under stress; and we all really benefitted from that," said Class Honor Grad, Sgt. Ryan Valline of the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry.