Military chaplains prepare for return of troopsby Jessica Mador, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Military chaplains attended a special training to prepare for the return of thousands of soldiers from the Middle East later this spring.
Minnesota National Guard officials are preparing for the May return of 2,700 Minnesota National Guard members from Kuwait, where they have been assisting with the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
The training at the Northeast Minneapolis Armory aimed to educate chaplains about the challenges faced by returning troops, such as reuniting with family, beginning college and looking for civilian employment. The training also alerted chaplains to the warning signs of suicide.
Reintegrating with family and friends after a tour of duty is difficult, particularly for Guard and Reserve soldiers who lack the support of an active duty military base, said Moorhead-based National Guard Chaplain Captain Justin Fenger.
"Being a soldier, there is additional stress because you're a civilian and you have that civilian job and you also have that other duty — that other obligation of service to country," Fenger said. "That constantly calls you away from your family, from your job, and so these are additional stressors."
Head Minnesota National Guard Chaplain Col. John Morris said it is important to help returning service members get work if they aren't planning to go to college. About a third of the Guard members now in Kuwait will need jobs when they return home.
"Every human being needs purpose, needs a reason to get up in the morning, a way to contribute and be productive," Morris said. "For them to not have a purpose, not have a job, not have a mission is particularly difficult after being in combat."
Morris recently traveled to Kuwait to meet with soldiers who will be unemployed upon their return to Minnesota.