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Active, Reserve Chaplains Support Troops in Bosnia

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 1996 – More than 30 Army Reserve chaplains and enlisted assistants recently arrived in Germany to fill in for chaplains supporting U.S. troops in Bosnia.

The religious service providers, 18 chaplains and 17 enlisted assistants, came from Army Reserve units around the country. National Guard chaplains also could be deployed in the future, said a spokesman from the Army Chief of Chaplains Office at the Pentagon.

"The Navy is a little different from the Army," said Chaplain (Capt.) Stephen Rock, director of distribution and inventory with the Navys Chaplains office. "The Army has the primary responsibility for the Bosnian mission. We only have one chaplain on the ground who went in with a Seabees [Navy construction battalion] unit."

If Marines aboard ships go in, chaplains would go with them, Rock said. "If there is a special requirement on land, a chaplain from a ship could fly in for services."

The Air Force has a Protestant chaplain, a Catholic chaplain and two enlisted support personnel in Tuzla, Bosnia, and a Protestant chaplain and an enlisted person in Taszar, Hungary, said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) John R. Blair of the Air Force Chief of the Chaplain Service Office at Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C.

"Most people don't know that chaplain readiness teams are working with our folks over there [Germany, Bosnia, Italy and Hungary]," said Air Force Chaplain (Col.) William Zoshak, senior chaplain of the 305th Air Mobility Wing at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. "The chaplain and enlisted support person work 12hour shifts. They talk to the people and try to help them with problems. They also try to help them feel better about where they are and being separated from their loved ones. They do anything they can to help with problems with loved ones back in the States. That's the mission of our chaplain support teams."

Chaplains and their support personnel are often a saving grace when people encounter seemingly insurmountable problems, officials said. For example, Zoshak said service station owner Jack Hagopian of Cherry Hill, N.J., asked the McGuire Public Affairs Office to mail 1,400 Christmas cards he'd collected after asking his customers to support the troops in Bosnia.

The office couldnt help. Regulations prohibit the use of official mail for that purpose, but even if they didn't, the military postal system wasnt set up in Bosnia and Hungary then. Public affairs representatives asked the chaplains for help. While searching for ways to get the cards to Bosnia and Hungary, Zoshak found a divine answer use chaplain readiness teams. When readiness teams go on the road, they take boxes packed with Bibles, religious literature and other items to help boost troop morale, Zoshak noted.

"We try to give troops some uplift from scriptures while theyre away from home to make them feel better about their lives and the lives of the people back home," he said. "Since our readiness teams distribute things to the troops to help their morale, we used the teams as a distribution point for the cards." With the help of an air crew, the cards were shipped to Bosnia on a C141 aircraft.

A few days later, Zoshak did a repeat performance when women from Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic parish in Hainsport, N.J., arrived at McGuire in a van loaded with 298 large, decorated tins of homebaked cookies.

"We'll be sending our readiness teams supplies to take care of our troops whatever they need," Zoshak said. "If they need cookies, we'll send them more cookies. If they need literature or Bibles whatever they feel will be helpful to lift the spirits of the troops."

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