Back to Top Skip to main content

Religious support team deploys to help frontline healthcare workers

Two military personnel, wearing masks, standing against a wall The Religious Support Team from the U.S. Army Reserve’s 785th Medical Detachment – Combat Operational Stress Control Unit, comprised of Army Capt. Ian Olson, left, chaplain, and Army Sgt. Steven Burns, religious affairs specialist, provide spiritual and personal support to the service members deployed as part of the Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Jan. 13, 2021. (Photo by Zachary Mott, 88th Readiness Division.)

Recommended Content:

Ideological and Spiritual Fitness | Total Force Fitness

Who cares for those who care for us?

For the military medical providers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the answer to that question is, in part, religious support teams.

In Eau Claire, Wisconsin, a team of two soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve’s 785th Medical Detachment – Combat Operational Stress Control Unit, 330th Medical Brigade, 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support), are providing support to the nurses and respiratory therapists augmenting the civilian hospital here.

The two-person religious support team (RST), comprised of Army Capt. Ian Olson, chaplain, and Army Sgt. Steven Burns, religious affairs specialist, were called to active duty to support the Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force (UAMTF). Their first assignment was to provide services covering the spectrum from spiritual guidance to friendship in Eau Claire.

“I think the RST is to this deployment as life preservers are to people on a cruise ship,” Olson said. “Just knowing that we’re here brings comfort. Knowing that there is support, I think, brings a sense of ease. So though we may not have a lot of direct contact with the providers, just our presence is helpful.”

Starting in early December, Olson and Burns have been working closely with the Behavioral Health Support Team from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, to develop ways to assist and provide support to the military medical professionals working with the civilian hospitals in western Wisconsin.

“We’ve had to be creative and find time to interact with them,” Olson said. “Before and after shift we hang out in the hotel lobby to catch them. I’ve gone to the hospital a few times on day shift to meet with our providers to see how they’re doing, if they have any concerns, what the stressors are, how the mission is going for them, as well as working with behavioral health putting on activities.”

While they work with the medical support teams, Burns is quick to point out that he and Olson are just doing the jobs they were trained to do.

“I think this is about credit, I think it should go to the medical team,” he said. “The medical team is the one that has that PPE (proper protective equipment) on 12-hours a day where one mistake and they could get sick. They’re the ones that are on the front lines.”

In civilian life, Olson works as a chaplain at a hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When he received the call from the 807th MCDS Deputy Command Chaplain, Army Lt. Col. Timothy Stansberry, he explained that he was sad to leave his civilian hospital team, but excited to be able to provide his services during a time of need.

“You don’t know when you’re going or where you’re going so just be in the moment,” Olson said. “Don’t get ahead of yourself, just be in the mission at hand. We still have a team here to support until people get on flights.”

Chaplains with the specific “7 Romeo” designator were specifically selected for these missions. The 7 Romeo additional skill identifier means hospital chaplain. This ASI requires that a chaplain complete four units of clinical pastoral education – with each single unit requiring 400 hours – as well as a residency, followed by a two week Army combat medical ministry course.

“Having that training on both the civilian side and military side, I think RSTs on this COVID-specific mission are well prepared to address any issues that might emerge,” Olson said.

Because the nature of the COVID-19 response by the UAMTFs continues to change and evolve by the day, Olson and Burns were called to move to a different site in California where they will continue to provide religious and personal support to the teams there.

“In (Los Angeles) County, I think our work will be more critical,” Olson said. “I think the stress on our providers, depending on the location, will increase which will give us the opportunity to really do what we’re trained to do. We don’t hope for it, but we are absolutely prepared to provide that stellar spiritual care.”

The location may be changing, but for this Religious Support Team their mission remains the same.

“As is the mission for the chaplain corps, we are support,” Olson said. “We support whether we’re in an infantry unit or a field artillery or medical, the chaplain corps is here to support the rest of the fighting force.”

You also may be interested in...

Proper diet, sleep, exercise, and joy key to heart health

Article
2/24/2021
Military personnel working out at the gym

Heart health is crucial to service members’ readiness throughout their high-stress careers. Working to achieve that takes self-discipline and moderation, but also joy, integrity, and social interaction

Recommended Content:

Heart Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Total Force Fitness | February Toolkit | Healthy Heart and Total Force Fitness | Preventing Heart Disease

How do you mend a broken heart? It usually fixes itself

Article
2/23/2021
Military personnel wearing a face mask, gets his heart checked out by military heath personnel

'Broken Heart Syndrome’ and ‘Holiday Heart Syndrome’ are very real phenomena. Spiritual and social fitness can help mitigate both.

Recommended Content:

Heart Health | Total Force Fitness | February Toolkit | Healthy Heart and Total Force Fitness

Training for a healthy heart can improve overall health

Article
2/22/2021
Military personnel wearing a mask exercising in the gym

Service members must be heart healthy to perform optimally throughout their military careers.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Physical Fitness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Total Force Fitness | Heart Health

March 2021 Toolkit

Publication
2/22/2021

March is nationally recognized as Brain Injury Awareness Month, with the goal of increasing traumatic brain injury (TBI) awareness and improve health care providers’ ability to identify, care for, and treat all those who are affected by TBI. A TBI is a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain. According to the Defense Health Agency Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence, 430,720 service members have been diagnosed with a first-time TBI since 2000. The toolkit also contains information on patient Safety Awareness Week, National Nutrition Month and many other graphics and messages you can use for holidays and observances during March.

Recommended Content:

March Toolkit | Total Force Fitness | Traumatic Brain Injury

Total Force Fitness Reintroduction

Video
2/17/2021
DHA Seal

The Military Health System is reintroducing Total Force Fitness. The Total Force Fitness concept focuses on a service member’s entire health throughout their career, connecting eight dimensions of fitness to optimize health, performance, and readiness holistically.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Environmental Fitness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Nutritional Fitness | Ideological and Spiritual Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Social Fitness | Financial Fitness | Health Tools

Healthy Heart for Body & Soul

Video
2/17/2021
DHA Seal

February is American heart health month and the Military Health System wants to help you maintain optimum heart health utilizing the Total Force Fitness tool.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness

Navy Lt. stresses importance of being proactive during winter training

Article
2/10/2021
Marines march during a cold weather leadership course

MCMWTC is the "real deal."

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Winter Safety | Winter Safety – Extreme Cold Weather and Your Heart

A ‘holistic framework’ for Total Force Fitness through 2021

Article
2/8/2021
Three military personnel, dress in gym gear, exercising with medicine balls.

Total Force Fitness is being re-introduced in 2021 by all branches of the military, to include an emphasis on holistic training that goes far beyond physical fitness.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness

USU launches into 2021 with Team Wellness Challenge

Article
2/2/2021
Four women, wearing masks, holding onto a simulated brain

Every New Year brings resolutions to change or improve our health, fitness, attitudes, or habits.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | February Toolkit | Healthy Heart and Total Force Fitness

COVID-19 presents challenges to heart health, physical fitness

Article
2/1/2021
Four military personnel, wearing masks, running on a track

Because of COVID-19 shutdowns, the overall health of both military personnel and beneficiaries has taken a hit over the last year.

Recommended Content:

February Toolkit | Healthy Heart and Total Force Fitness | Preventing Heart Disease | Coronavirus | Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Heart Health

TFF: A holistic approach to health and performance

Article
1/29/2021
Silhouette of man climbing a hill

Total Force Fitness encourages Service Members to look beyond traditional fitness approaches to boost their performance.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness

February 2021 Toolkit

Publication
1/29/2021

Every February is Heart Health Month to raise awareness of heart disease and promote healthy prevention strategies. A healthy heart is vital to overall wellness, and critical to readiness and optimizing performance. Viewing Heart Health through the lens of two Total Force Fitness domains, Physical Fitness and Spiritual and Ideological Fitness, the MHS is taking a holistic approach to the heart this February, to understand how the body and soul impact heart health, and vice versa. The toolkit also contains information on Winter Safety and how extreme cold weather can affect your heart. It also has graphics and messages you can use for holidays and observances during February, notably Black History Month.

Recommended Content:

February Toolkit | Total Force Fitness

Social fitness can impact overall health and readiness

Article
1/28/2021
Five Cyclists riding on the road

Social fitness, one of the total Force Fitness framework’s eight domains, is an important element to holistic health.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Social Fitness

Spirituality: Chaplains play important role in overall fitness

Article
1/27/2021
Woman, wearing mask and prayer shawl, standing on a stage and lighting candles. There are two military personnel in the pews

Navy Capt. Raymond Houk, Chaplain for Navy Medicine, says spiritual fitness and support is integral to the mission

Recommended Content:

Ideological and Spiritual Fitness

DOD Launches “My MilLife Guide” Text Message Program to Boost Wellness

Article
1/11/2021
The new My MilLife Guide program supports the wellness of the military community.

DoD has launched My MilLife Guide, a new program that sends text messages designed to help the military community boost overall wellness while navigating stresses related to COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Public Health | Total Force Fitness | Health Readiness
<< < 1 2 3 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 3

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.