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News | April 15, 2010

Religious Affairs Strategy Conference seeks better coordination for disaster relief

By Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher NORAD and U.S. NORTHCOM Public Affairs

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – More than 60 military chaplains and non-government organization representatives came together in Colorado Springs, Colo., this week to participate in the Religious Affairs Strategy Conference hosted by the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command Chaplain's Office.

The conference sought to improve the ways military chaplains, non-government organizations and faith-based organizations coordinate and respond to natural disasters such as the earthquake that struck Haiti in January.

Navy Chaplain (Cmdr.) David Rodriguez, NORAD and U.S. NORTHCOM Chaplain’s Office, said the biggest challenge his office faces during a crisis is sharing information to ensure everyone is on the same page.

“We need to overcome the cultural and structural differences among NGO's, FBO's and the military that are impediments to responding to disasters,” he said. “The conference is designed to identify and ameliorate these differences.”

In the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, U.S. NORTHCOM sent two chaplains to assist in the relief efforts. Rodriguez, one of those two chaplains, said the conference was spurred by what they experienced in that effort.

“One of the lessons learned we’ll discuss is the lack of coordination between military chaplains, FBOs and NGOs,” Rodriguez said.

Army Chaplain (Col.) Thomas Vail, NORAD and U.S. NORTHCOM command chaplain, said forging and maintaining relationships among all the players assisting in disaster response was vitally important.

Vail said it’s important to form working relationships with other organizations now for the sake of future operations.

“We need to be able to balance each other out in terms of our preparation and response to natural disasters,” he said. “Because I personally don’t want to see what happened in Haiti happen to our country.”