In mid-August senior leaders of the Chaplain Corps came from all over the world to participate in the Chief of Chaplains’ Strategic Leader Development Training. This event, held annually, had to be cancelled last year and reworked in the wake of budget constraints. In the past, Senior Leadership Development Training (SLDT) included most all of the senior Unit Ministry Teams (UMTs) in all components of the Army Chaplain Corps; budget constraints forced a dramatic reduction in the list of invitees this year in order to conform to current training guidance from Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).
I have to confess that I’m not a great fan of mass gatherings of any sort where training or teaching or briefings are concerned, as it doesn’t take long before my spine begins to feel as if it’s welded to the usual uncomfortably hard plastic chairs featured at most venues. And it’s the networking and informal discussion and brainstorming with other senior leaders about practical issues and solutions that gives any real significance or permanence to these things.
Aspects of this training were no different, but one session was of particular interest to the topic of my article in this issue of the newsletter – the Care to Caregiver (C2C) Program. Developed between the current Chief of Chaplains, CH (MG) Donald L. Rutherford, and former Chief of Chaplains, CH (MG-R) G.T. Gunhus, the Care to Caregiver Program aligns currently serving chaplains and chaplain assistants with retired members of our Corps, who have volunteered to act as Shepherds and Elders (mentors) to them.
The first presentation about the Shepherd and Elder C2C Program was made to the Advanced Course C4 14-001 Class. An article on the Chaplain Regimental Association web page points out that, of the 36 students in the class, seventeen of them linked with a Shepherd; nine declined to participate; and nine indicated no preference one way or the other. Four who attended the most recent Brigade Chaplain Functional Course indicated a wish to link with a Shepherd. Considering that the program is strictly voluntary, it appears to be off to a great start.
The C2C Program continues to solicit volunteers as of this writing. It is my hope that volunteers from all components will step forward to mentor and guide mid-career and young chaplains just starting out. I received no mentoring (or even supervision for that matter) as a chaplain candidate and very little as a company grade chaplain. But beginning in my field grade years, I had a string of fantastic mentors – chaplains, other special staff, and line officers alike. And I was determined to “pay it forward” during the remaining years of my career.
In my experience as a senior leader, there is NO greater satisfaction than in mentoring the next generation of senior leaders. I mean that sincerely – NOTHING that is more rewarding. But that’s been true at every stage of my career, as I endeavored to mentor those immediately subordinate to me and accepted mentoring from those above me. If you are not doing so already, I strongly encourage you – no, more than encourage you – I suggest it’s a big part of your responsibility to the Army and to the Corps – to mentor a chaplain in your Area of Responsibility (AOR).
Having said all that, I offer a word of caution to prospective mentors and mentees. Not everyone is cut out for or ought to engage in mentoring, in my view. Unless you can make judgments without being judgmental, unless you can impart your expertise without being doctrinaire, unless you can walk a mile in someone else’s shoes without stepping on their toes, unless you can uphold what you cannot always personally embrace – do your subordinates a favor and forget about mentoring. I would say further, unless as a senior leader, you value your mentee’s career as much or more than your own – do your subordinates a favor and forget about mentoring.
And to those looking for a mentor, take your time. Trust is the precondition for any successful mentoring. Use your judgment; wait until it feels right. Until you sense you can trust, don’t jump at the first senior chaplain you encounter or you may sadly live to regret the day you did. You will know when you’ve found the right person. The C2C Program is an opportunity for you newer and mid-career chaplains to pick up a mentor who has already proven himself or herself as a trusted mentor over an entire career and clearly cares about your career enough to volunteer the time to look after you as a Shepherd and Elder.
If you’ve not found a mentor, I strongly encourage you to request one today. If you’ve not been a mentor, I suggest you engage now to ensure that the experience and the care that you bring to the Corps in your career lifecycle is not lost to the Corps of the future. mailto:email@example.com phone is 860-639-4494
Pro Deo et Patria
CH (COL) Thomas H. Brouillard
Director, Reserve Components Integration
Office of the Chief of Chaplains