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News | May 23, 2012

NORAD, USNORTHCOM holds religious affairs conference

By Tech. Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - The NORAD and U.S. Northern Command Chaplain’s Office began their week-long Annual Religious Affairs Conference at the Radisson Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 21.

The conference is designed to bring together faith-based organizations and leaders and improve coordination and collaboration with emergency managers during a response to a disaster.

Unlike last year, which brought together faith-based organizations from across the nation, this year’s conference is focusing on local religious groups in Colorado. This year’s theme is “Strengthening faith-based response to local disasters.”

Chaplain (Col.) Conrad Navarro, NORAD and USNORTHCOM Command Chaplain, said they wanted to get local religious organizations and helping agencies in the same room to talk about how they can help during a local emergency.

“We wanted to say to them, ‘what if an emergency were to happen here in Colorado Springs?’” he said. “What do we do? What can you do? How can we help each other?”

Navarro said they wanted this year’s conference to have a tighter focus with more emphasis placed on local organizations and how they can prepare to assist in disasters that strike their areas.

“Every disaster, we believe, is a local one,” he said. “Not national, not international. It affects the local people.”

More than 100 members of religious organizations attended the conference, double the number from previous years, Navarro said, adding that the local nature of the theme led to the high turnout.

“People are interested in finding out how they can help if something happens in the local area,” Navarro said. “They want to help, and I think this is what draws them.”

Ray Woolridge, Deputy Director of the Chaplain’s Office, said the conference is not just a learning experience for the attendees, but for NORAD and USNORTHCOM as well.

“It’s an experiment,” he said. “We’re in a learning mode, and I think the better we understand local people and issues, the better prepared we’ll be to do national coordination.”

Woolridge said the religious community has a lot to offer during an emergency.

“Ultimately, at the end of the day, all of the people in the room can be part of the solution to help Emergency Management and the city and the state mitigate a disaster on the Front Range,” he said.