Peacemakers: Chaplains as Vital Links in the Peace Chain

By David R. Leonard Joint Force Quarterly 96

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Chaplain (Major) David R. Leonard, USAF, is an Instructor in the Department of Research at the Air Command and Staff College.

U.S. Agency for International Development worker waits for flight on C-130J Hercules assigned to 75th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, Combined Joint
Task Force–Horn of Africa, in Maputo, Mozambique, March 29, 2019 (U.S. Air Force/Chris Hibben)
U.S. Agency for International Development worker waits for flight on C-130J Hercules assigned to 75th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa, in Maputo, Mozambique, March 29, 2019 (U.S. Air Force/Chris Hibben)
U.S. Agency for International Development worker waits for flight on C-130J Hercules assigned to 75th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, Combined Joint
Task Force–Horn of Africa, in Maputo, Mozambique, March 29, 2019 (U.S. Air Force/Chris Hibben)
190331-F-PS957-0001
U.S. Agency for International Development worker waits for flight on C-130J Hercules assigned to 75th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa, in Maputo, Mozambique, March 29, 2019 (U.S. Air Force/Chris Hibben)
Photo By: Tech. Sgt. Chris Hibben
VIRIN: 190331-F-PS957-0001

Commanders should consider using Department of Defense (DOD) chaplains to significantly enhance the pursuit of national objectives by providing humanitarian liaison officer (LNO) capabilities at each level of military operations. This article reviews current scholarship, missions, and limitations regarding the utilization of military chaplains. It frames the chaplain’s advantage in working with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), interagency and international actors as prescribed by joint doctrine, and humanitarian organizational guidance. Finally, it provides recommendations for implementation at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of employment.

In conflict regions where the U.S. Government operates, military commanders are challenged with a complex architecture of intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), agencies, NGOs, and international foreign humanitarian assistance mechanisms. The “fog of peace” created by numerous organizations in the battlespace requires military leaders to develop and utilize tools for maximizing coordinated humanitarian assistance (HA).1 The U.S. military, under Title 10 authority, conducts humanitarian action in support of U.S. security interests through personnel possessing “specific operational readiness skills.”2 However, humanitarian assistance and disaster response aid must not duplicate other U.S. humanitarian efforts or support groups engaged in military activity and consequently requires approval by the Department of State.3 The United Nations (UN) Civil-Military Coordination guidance gives the HA designation to all “assistance, protection, and advocacy action in response to human needs resulting from complex emergencies and natural disasters.”4 Its purpose is to save lives and alleviate suffering, and it broadly encompasses the entirety of the humanitarian action in the operational environment.5 The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has established seven guiding principles for humanitarian actors in conducting HA: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, and universality.6 The U.S. military, directed by different priorities, often finds itself in tension with other humanitarian actors while attempting to provide similar aid in pursuit of unaligned objectives.

Military commanders coordinate movement and economy of effort with the various agencies, who often fear that meeting with military forces will compromise their image of neutrality.7 In a hostile or uncertain environment, the military typically prioritizes security, while NGOs often focus on humanitarian needs and resist association with the military.8 However, the military desires to leverage the NGOs as force multipliers in the battlespace as part of counterinsurgency operations. Essentially, military and humanitarian actors exist in the same “humanitarian space,” needing one another yet operating as reluctant partners.9

Many commanders see non-DOD humanitarian work as an extension of U.S. policy on counterinsurgency, while neutral humanitarian groups want no such perception. Often the NGOs and international organizations have more access to local populations but lack security, logistics, or situational awareness of the battlefield. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) explains that regardless of how well intentioned the military is, servicemembers will not be accepted by some in the humanitarian space who are negatively affected by military actions. Local populations often resist military humanitarian action because of its temporary nature. For instance, the military might build a school, only to have it destroyed 2 weeks later because insurgents are hiding there. Since people often perceive the military as the group bringing violence to the region, the military might lack credibility with humanitarian actors.10 At times, HA brought by agents typically associated with violence compromises the neutrality of other humanitarian actors. This is particularly true when violence has been disguised as HA. A representative from InterAction, a clearinghouse of 195 NGOs, cited a case wherein the Central Intelligence Agency sponsored a polio vaccination program, intending to use it as a ruse to capture Osama bin Laden. Ten years later, this deception resulted in legitimate polio vaccination workers being killed by insurgents.11

Todd Greentree concludes that the military also lacks confidence in humanitarian groups. In 2001, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) diverted cash for work funds and other unspecified priorities. These work projects were a critical tool for keeping fighting-age males from joining the Taliban. The change in policy worked against the military effort in the area. Some commanders began referring to USAID as “the source of instability.”12 Humanitarian actors often lack trust in the military while the military desires HA to work in concert with its own lines of effort.

Building mutual trust between communities with different priorities and values within the same humanitarian space is essential to HA. It requires a multitiered approach to coordinate agencies, NGOs, host-nation personnel, and local leaders. Commanders seeking to work effectively with humanitarian actors need a representative who understands the culture, mission, and values of the diverse groups participating in the humanitarian operation.13 When asked what relationship most NGOs would like to have with the military, one representative responded, “We don’t and we won’t.”14 Yet in interviews, numerous members of the Red Cross and NGOs demonstrated their openness to improved relations between the two communities.15 Effective HA therefore requires a bridge that spans both functional cultures for maximizing effectiveness in delivering aid.

The chaplain is an often underutilized soft-power resource in the commander’s toolbox. Contemporary analysis on the subject lays a solid framework for the discussion of chaplains as liaison officers in HA operations. Joint doctrine directs chaplains to be used as liaisons to the interagency community, IGOs, NGOs, multinational forces, and local religious leaders “[to advise regarding] religious and humanitarian dynamics in the operational area.”16 This doctrinal mandate contrasts with a failure to develop chaplains for use in this capacity. The chaplain has superior expertise, experience, and credibility to work effectively with humanitarian actors when compared to other military members.

Missions and Limitations

Chaplains bring a robust set of qualifications and capabilities, unparalleled by any other DOD personnel. Chaplains must complete 72 hours of postgraduate work in subjects including counseling, social work, world religions, theology, and ethics. Additionally, they must be endorsed by a recognized religious body.17 The religious endorsement places the chaplain under two sets of authorities: the military, which gives them their commission, and the religious body, which ordains them for religious work within the military. No other career field requires training in such broad subjects with ready application to humanitarian settings. Additionally, they spend 2 years of developmental training in churches that are by nature nonprofit, charitable humanitarian organizations. As the only career field required to work in a nonprofit humanitarian organization prior to serving in the Armed Forces, chaplains possess a unique set of skills as highly qualified subject matter experts for work as liaisons to humanitarian actors. The table compares the qualifications of military career fields. I have modified it for this analysis with ranking based on qualifications relative to chaplains for utilization in humanitarian work.

Table. Qualification of Humanitarian/Religious LNO Compared to Other Career Fields
Table. Qualification of Humanitarian/Religious LNO Compared to Other Career Fields
Table. Qualification of Humanitarian/Religious LNO Compared to Other Career Fields
Photo By: NDU Press
VIRIN: 200210-D-BD104-005

As outlined by Title 10, chaplains provide both religious services and advising, enabling the expression of faith or religious practice for all assigned personnel.18 Chaplains provide for the religious and spiritual support of military members, authorized civilians, and their families. In counseling, chaplains have privileged communication, which protects the adherent’s confidentiality in all matters dealing with religion and conscience. As a special staff officer, the chaplain also advises the commander and staff on “issues surrounding moral and ethical decision making, [and] morale as affected by religion and personnel issues.”19 Religious advisement informs leadership concerning the impact of religion on joint operations.20

As the commander’s primary religious representatives, chaplains may draw from this expertise to provide liaison to religious leaders, NGOs, and local civilian and military agencies “to the extent that those contacts relate to the religious or humanitarian purposes approved by the commander.”21 However, commanders use chaplains as liaisons rarely, and typically only at the tactical level. Furthermore, training and application as a tactical liaison differ between military branches. Commanders and chaplains alike have yet to realize the latent capabilities of these robust resources already present within their own organizations. As an embedded subject matter expert, chaplains are acutely aware of military objectives, religious cultural sensitivities, and humanitarian requirements. Additionally, they possess the requisite skills to bridge the communication gap with diverse actors in the humanitarian space.

Commanders who desire to achieve synergy in civil-military operations should therefore use the chaplain’s capabilities to cultivate “holistic, cumulative, and integrative” partnerships.22 While commanders have traditionally avoided using chaplains in these types of roles, this change of paradigm represents smart risk. By selecting the most qualified specialist for this mission set, commanders gain the greatest likelihood of achieving desired outcomes. In addition to their qualifications, limitations unique to the chaplain’s role in the military serve to further support their utilization as humanitarian LNOs in the operational environment.

Chaplains have protections and limitations not afforded to other career fields. International law and U.S. code limit the roles and responsibilities of chaplains in ways that enhance their ability to serve in a liaison function to humanitarian actors. The law restricts chaplains from intelligence-gathering and combatant activities. The Geneva Conventions identify chaplains as “protected personnel” in their function and capacity as ministers of religion, and U.S. law further restricts chaplains from bearing arms as noncombatants.23 Only chaplains and medical personnel are permitted to wear the protected symbol of the Red Cross/Crescent.24 This distinction ameliorates many of the concerns presented by humanitarian actors in the operational environment.

Historically, chaplains have provided religious services, warrior care, and leadership advisement.25 The leadership advisement typically given to commanders involves religious requirements and sensitivities as they relate to the assigned unit. Rarely do chaplain duties involve strategic or operational applications beyond the religious care of U.S. forces.26

Chaplains are appointed by their endorsing bodies to provide religious services, yet HA also serves to save lives and ameliorate suffering, roles consistent with their identity as “visible reminders of the holy.”27 To be relevant to the emerging needs of national and military strategic objectives, the DOD chaplain corps must consider moving beyond its traditional roles to additional applications consistent with their identity as peacemakers. Chaplains have failed to realize their potential as vital links in the peace chain. They could potentially save lives through participation in peace operations and by fostering partnerships in conflict areas.

Chaplain with 2nd Battalion, 114th Strike Field Artillery Regiment, Mississippi National Guard, reads passage from Bible during visit with Ugandan security
guards in security tower at Forward Operating Base, Marez, Mosul, Iraq, September 24, 2009 (U.S. Navy/Carmichael Yepez)
Chaplain with 2nd Battalion, 114th Strike Field Artillery Regiment, Mississippi National Guard, reads passage from Bible during visit with Ugandan security guards in security tower at Forward Operating Base, Marez, Mosul, Iraq, September 24, 2009 (U.S. Navy/Carmichael Yepez)
Chaplain with 2nd Battalion, 114th Strike Field Artillery Regiment, Mississippi National Guard, reads passage from Bible during visit with Ugandan security
guards in security tower at Forward Operating Base, Marez, Mosul, Iraq, September 24, 2009 (U.S. Navy/Carmichael Yepez)
090924-N-0775Y-011
Chaplain with 2nd Battalion, 114th Strike Field Artillery Regiment, Mississippi National Guard, reads passage from Bible during visit with Ugandan security guards in security tower at Forward Operating Base, Marez, Mosul, Iraq, September 24, 2009 (U.S. Navy/Carmichael Yepez)
Photo By: MC1 Carmichael Yepez
VIRIN: 090924-N-0775Y-011

Humanitarian Actors

Humanitarian actor describes the complex web of U.S. interagency, private, national, and international humanitarian relief organizations active in the humanitarian space. During foreign humanitarian crises, HA is typically coordinated by the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), or some combination of the ICRC and IFRC. The lead organization will coordinate unity of effort between the various agencies present. Despite some outliers, most organizations will work to some degree with these organizing partners. Besides the interaction of the various elements of DOD, coordination also takes place between U.S. Government agencies, foreign militaries, international organizations, NGOs, and the private sector.28 Many private self-governing humanitarian NGOs work to alleviate suffering; promote health care and economic and educational advancement; and advocate for human rights and conflict resolution.29 Most legitimate NGOs are coordinated through the Red Cross or OCHA, but some work independently, such as Doctors Without Borders.30 Between 6,000 and 30,000 NGOs annually provide more than $8 billion in aid to help more than 250 million people.31 These various organizations coalesce around the cause of HA, but with different limitations and agendas.

The commander requires an LNO with expertise in the concerns, legitimacy, and operations of humanitarian actors. Humanitarian actors seek to preserve their neutral status in a conflict, but neutrality is not always in DOD’s interest. Humanitarian actors seek a dialogue with the military without blurring the lines of neutrality.32 InterAction explains that the association of military uniforms with NGOs in the humanitarian space calls into question the NGO’s neutrality, placing its personnel in danger. It will take time, patience, and someone who speaks the cultural language of these organizations to build bridges into their community. This can only happen through ongoing dialogue and relationship-building. Currently, the U.S. military typically conducts HA through the civil affairs teams aligned under the civil affairs command.

DOD civil affairs teams serve as the commander’s lead military agent in civil-military HA. According to U.S. joint doctrine, civil-military operations “establish, maintain, influence, or exploit relationships between military forces and indigenous populations and institutions . . . by directly supporting the attainment of objectives relating to the reestablishment or maintenance of stability within a region or host nation.”33 The geographic combatant commanders (GCCs) “provide regional coordination and direction to their subordinate commanders for the integration and coordination of civil-military operations into military plans and operations.”34 Civil-military operations elements are located at the Joint Staff J9, Joint Civil-Military Operations Task Forces (JCMOTF), Civil-Military Operations Centers (CMOCs), and civil-military teams (such as provincial reconstruction teams).35 The J9 provides, communicates, and coordinates support requests and activities while also providing analysis in support of the commander’s assessment. A civil-military team utilizes diplomatic, informational, military, and economic factors to stabilize the operational environment in a province, district, state, or locality. These teams conduct military engagement, interorganizational coordination, and HA while also assessing the impact on military operations.36 Civil affairs teams are comprised of “special forces, military information support, legal support, public affairs, engineer, transportation, health support personnel, military police, security forces, and maneuver units”—none of which specializes in religious or humanitarian operations.37 These functional representatives lack expertise in conducting religious and humanitarian-focused diplomacy. While the civil affairs teams do provide humanitarian capabilities, they do not represent the best option available for commanders to use as LNOs to humanitarian actors.

Figure. Notional Composition of a CMOC
Figure. Notional Composition of a CMOC
Figure. Notional Composition of a CMOC
Photo By: NDU Press
VIRIN: 200207-D-BD104-025

The U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command supports commanders at the GCC level through the Joint Staff in five GCCs. In this capacity, they “develop plans, policy, and programs through planning and regional engagement while providing civil component analysis at the strategic and theater level.” LNOs are placed alongside NGOs, U.S. Government, and host-nation agencies, serving as a bridge to facilitate unity of effort and understanding for U.S. military forces.38 At the operational level, LNOs may function as part of a JCMOTF or as part of a coordination element such as a CMOC, Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Center, or Humanitarian Operations Center. The CMOC is the primary operational DOD tool for coordination among the key participants, Service and functional components, USAID, Embassy country teams, and interagency liaisons.39 While augmented with other specialists such as medical and engineering personnel, chaplains do not currently serve as functional representatives.40 At other times, USAID coordinates unity of effort for humanitarian actors when providing foreign HA with the USAID administrator designated as the U.S. HA coordinator for emergency response.41 By adding chaplains as permanent subject matter experts in these centers, commanders will significantly increase communication, trust, and understanding between military and humanitarian agencies.

OCHA has developed a guide for militaries that outlines engagement, coordination, and limits of civil-military coordination. The UN recognizes that the military may provide helpful assistance in HA, yet some military interests (to gain acceptance, provide security, or gather intelligence) are not connected to HA. The United Nations and NGOs fear that military HA operations blur the lines between the military and the work of humanitarian actors. This blurring of roles endangers neutrality and shows partiality.42 The skewed perception produced hinders the work of the civilian HA teams. To mitigate this, the UN recommends that HA should primarily be conducted by designated humanitarian and local partners through the coordination of local authorities and community leaders.43 Humanitarian actors seek to develop a humanitarian space where they can operate unhindered. OCHA operates at the global strategic, operational, and tactical levels and presents a vital conduit for developing LNO capacity. At the strategic level, most coordination is developed at an interagency standing committee comprised of 18 major humanitarian organizations.44 At the operational level, the UN resident coordinator provides the vital link to the global level as lead representative of the UN Secretary-General. When required, a humanitarian country team brings together all major UN and non-UN organizations in the humanitarian space in a process called “cluster coordination.”45 A cluster is a group of humanitarian agencies active in the operational environment. Humanitarian actors prefer military engagement on their terms and will not advocate for the U.S. commander’s requirements. Increased LNO capacity will facilitate better communication and civil-military understanding. As David Levine rightly observes, “Direct coordination [requires] personal relationships between the U.S. military and coalition military organizations, IGOs, and NGOs.”46 The military would be well served by having a representative humanitarian LNO specialist at each level of OCHA planning and coordination.

Marines currently under 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, and members of Indian military wade to shore during exercise Tiger Triumph, on
Kakinada Beach, India, November 19, 2019 (U.S. Marine Corps/Christian Ayers)
Marines currently under 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, and members of Indian military wade to shore during exercise Tiger Triumph, on Kakinada Beach, India, November 19, 2019 (U.S. Marine Corps/Christian Ayers)
Marines currently under 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, and members of Indian military wade to shore during exercise Tiger Triumph, on
Kakinada Beach, India, November 19, 2019 (U.S. Marine Corps/Christian Ayers)
191119-M-ZF985-0070
Marines currently under 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, and members of Indian military wade to shore during exercise Tiger Triumph, on Kakinada Beach, India, November 19, 2019 (U.S. Marine Corps/Christian Ayers)
Photo By: Lance Cpl. Christian Ayers
VIRIN: 191119-M-ZF985-0070

The Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement is the international authority on humanitarian relief in conflict regions. As explained by the UN guidance for civil-military relations, “The components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement—ICRC, IFRC, and the national societies are neither NGOs nor IGOs. They have a special legal status, role, and relation to the military based on the Geneva Conventions, the movement’s statutes and national law.”47 The Geneva Conventions of 1949 affirm that it is a “neutral and independent humanitarian organization.”48 The ICRC provides assistance, protection, and education governing international humanitarian law. A sister organization, the IFRC, brings together national arms of the organization, which aim to coordinate the effort of 189 national Red Cross/Red Crescent organizations. Red Cross/Red Crescent comprises the largest volunteer-based humanitarian organization in the world. The national organizations provide assistance without discrimination to the wounded on the battlefield, prevent human suffering, and protect life and health for all.49 In a conflict region, the ICRC will usually take the lead, along with the Federation, to coordinate humanitarian effort when OCHA is not present.50 The various elements of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement can operate as a trusted, neutral agent—a prolific and persistent humanitarian force at the local level throughout the world. They do not wish to meet regularly with military members and request servicemembers to be in uniform when doing so.51 Like many humanitarian actors, they seek to preserve their neutrality when seen meeting with military representatives. Permitting military noncombatants to wear the Red Cross emblem on their uniform as liaisons could potentially mitigate these concerns. The symbol visibly communicates the neutrality of the noncombatant to all who witness the interaction.

As various agencies strive to coordinate the work of participating NGOs in the specific humanitarian operation, competing ideologies may interfere with unity of effort. Joint Publication (JP) 3-57, Civil-Military Operations, states that “some NGOs may have policies that are purposely antithetical to both the U.S. military forces and U.S. Government departments and agencies, but they may have resources and capabilities that could promote the accomplishment of military objectives.”52 Not all NGOs are the same, and many must be fully vetted for legitimacy and performance. Some NGOs will accept money but not follow through on promised HA. Ongoing relationships with known organizations will help to determine legitimacy.53 In achieving unity of effort, military commanders require an LNO who can accurately evaluate the actors in the humanitarian space. This requires military experts who understand issues relating to heritage, cultural resources, communication, media, law enforcement, religion, and cultural/historic property.54 Chaplains have been trained to understand culture and religion in the operational environment and can therefore add a distinct value alongside the other staff officers in this capacity. These skills could be further developed through an increased partnership with other U.S. Government lead agencies and international humanitarian actors. Current civil-military efforts provide coordination but lack capability for military expertise in achieving commanders’ objectives as shaped by civilian religious and humanitarian actors.

Civil affairs teams provide excellent military coordination and expertise in logistics but lack specific training, qualifications, and experience for engaging humanitarian actors. Religion can be a contributing factor in many conflicts due to the manipulation of ideologies. Military forces must recognize religious and cultural sensitivities and ideologies, so as not to hinder military operations. JP 3-57 recognizes that chaplains, in their distinctive role as noncombatants, “will participate as appropriate in planning for the impact of religion on current and future operations.”55 They may also “conduct liaison with key civilian religious leaders and faith-based organizations, with the goal of fostering understanding and reconciliation.”56 Current doctrine already empowers chaplains to conduct liaison activities, but commanders do not typically assign them as permanent members of civil affairs teams in the same manner as lawyers and engineers. Additionally, LNOs are not routinely collocated with the humanitarian actors. By permanently assigning chaplains to function as LNOs in the same manner as other subject matter experts, the commander can achieve economy of effort while also utilizing the best resources available. This particularly applies to humanitarian coordination elements in which the U.S. military does not have the operational lead.

Air Force Technical Sergeant Sophia Hayner, 82nd Reconnaissance Squadron, shared her story of resilience to provide raw perspective on how suicide affects more than victims, Kadena Air Base, Japan, December 3, 2019 (U.S. Air Force/Daniel E. Fernandez)
Air Force Technical Sergeant Sophia Hayner, 82nd Reconnaissance Squadron, shared her story of resilience to provide raw perspective on how suicide affects more than victims, Kadena Air Base, Japan, December 3, 2019 (U.S. Air Force/Daniel E. Fernandez)
Air Force Technical Sergeant Sophia Hayner, 82nd Reconnaissance Squadron, shared her story of resilience to provide raw perspective on how suicide affects more than victims, Kadena Air Base, Japan, December 3, 2019 (U.S. Air Force/Daniel E. Fernandez)
191203-F-IB792-1004
Air Force Technical Sergeant Sophia Hayner, 82nd Reconnaissance Squadron, shared her story of resilience to provide raw perspective on how suicide affects more than victims, Kadena Air Base, Japan, December 3, 2019 (U.S. Air Force/Daniel E. Fernandez)
Photo By: Staff Sgt. Daniel Fernandez
VIRIN: 191203-F-IB792-1004

Each of these humanitarian actors and government agencies brings distinctive capabilities and limitations in providing humanitarian action. The military can best utilize these soft power elements by not confusing its mission with theirs, by not compromising their neutrality, and by developing enduring LNO relationships at each level of military operations. Chaplains provide the best resource for this mission because, as noncombatants, they are restricted from intelligence-gathering yet possess superior training, skills, and education.

Not every chaplain will be a good fit for this specialization, however. Chaplains at the rank of major should be vetted for aptitude, temperament, endorser restriction, and interest in working with humanitarian actors. Specific areas should then be developed accordingly. Key areas for development include accessibility, specific civil-military training, and focused employment of chaplains as humanitarian LNO specialists.

What follows are some recommendations for employment:

  • Develop a position for religious/humanitarian LNO specialists. This requires civil-military training, strategic and operational employment, and specific utilization capability. Other countries have effectively developed their chaplains to serve in similar roles. South Africa has utilized its chaplains as religious, mediation, and negotiation experts and as NGO/religious leader engagement specialists in peace operations. Norway has developed doctrine defining the operational role of chaplains in stability operations.57 Training can be accomplished through focused study during intermediate developmental education (IDE) with follow-on training at USAID, OCHA, ICRC, or an NGO’s global headquarters.58
  • Develop a fellowship for chaplains similar to the existing Political-Military Affairs Strategist (PAS) program, which offers a well-established developmental track that is currently not available to chaplains. It refines selectees at the O4 or O5 level with an “international political-military affairs assignment on their first or second post-IDE assignment.”59 Like the PAS program, a fellowship for chaplains could develop a cadre of religious officers with cultural and civil-military expertise. The PAS development opportunity specifically provides future senior military leaders with valuable political-military education and experience through a single, well-managed developmental assignment opportunity.60 A similar program for chaplains could prepare them to bridge U.S. strategic policy with HA operations. Additionally, the curriculum should include courses on religion and humanitarian action. Developmental utilization tours for chaplains would be preferred at the OCHA, World Council of Churches, ICRC, GCC (J9 Staff), NGO headquarters, Chaplain Corps Colleges, or JCMOTF, as required. A developmental IDE track for chaplains would require the procurement of suitable post-IDE assignments.
  • Employ chaplain LNOs at key strategic points. OCHA, ICRC, or the World Council of Churches could serve as executive-level assignments for chaplain colonels, giving them the ability to advocate for DOD interests with a high-level sight picture of global HA initiatives.61 Chaplain lieutenant colonels could be positioned in joint billets at the GCCs, working alongside the J9. They would enable civil-military forces to ensure persistent coordination with humanitarian actors within the area of responsibility. These assignments could also align with those GCCs with civil affairs command elements currently assigned.62 Chaplain majors could serve operational interests through assignment at USAID or in fellowships with ICRC, IFRC, or NGO clearinghouses such as InterAction. While opportunities to work with non-U.S. agencies do not currently exist, there has been some precedent established.63 Agencies such as InterAction, Catholic Relief Services, or World Vision would make excellent training partners. These fellowships would build enduring relationships, providing coordination and communication with humanitarian actors in the operational environment. Another key area for employment could be at the respective Service chaplain corps colleges. Chaplain majors could be utilized to teach chaplain corps personnel about NGO, IGO, and religious leader engagement requirements at the tactical level. This could also be a “rapid mobility” billet in support of joint civil-military operations task force or CMOC operational deployments. In these assignments, the assigned chaplain should determine with the hosting agency whether to wear civilian or military attire, as appropriate. When in uniform, the chaplain should display the Red Cross/Crescent emblem as noncombatant identification at all times. Implementation will require clear communication with endorsers, an expanded understanding of the Title 10 employment of chaplains, and administrative tracking of the selected chaplain’s utilization.
  • Dialogue with religious endorsers, clarify Title 10 requirements, and develop requisite administrative systems: “Title 10 gives the Secretary of Defense ‘authority, direction, and control’ over DOD, including all subordinate agencies and commands.”64 First, Title 10 authorization will need to be clarified for chaplains to define their role in providing religious and humanitarian liaison.65 Second, the Service chiefs of chaplains should consult endorsers as to this new mode of employment.66 In some instances, this development could serve both the military and the endorsing agent, such as developmental assignments with national church humanitarian agencies. This noncombatant role will serve to further the care and amelioration of suffering while also promoting peace. This will certainly align with the values of religious groups currently represented in DOD. Third, leaders at the headquarters level must develop and secure LNO assignments at the global, national, and military strategic levels for employment.
  • Finally, selection for a humanitarian LNO specialist must be administratively connected with existing programs. Fellowship programs for field grade officers need to be expanded to include military chaplains with an emphasis on civil military affairs, world religions, and NGO studies. Selected chaplain LNOs should be tracked with a special experience identifier (SEI) to enable identification and vectoring. This working model will provide commanders a vital connection between the strategic national objectives and the humanitarian actors in the operational environment.

Deputy wing chaplain for Joint Base Langley, Virginia, helps carry religious items from church, October 22, 2018, on Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, after Hurricane Michael caused catastrophic damage (U.S. Air Force/Sean Carnes)
Deputy wing chaplain for Joint Base Langley, Virginia, helps carry religious items from church, October 22, 2018, on Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, after Hurricane Michael caused catastrophic damage (U.S. Air Force/Sean Carnes)
Deputy wing chaplain for Joint Base Langley, Virginia, helps carry religious items from church, October 22, 2018, on Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, after Hurricane Michael caused catastrophic damage (U.S. Air Force/Sean Carnes)
181023-F-CC297-0135
Deputy wing chaplain for Joint Base Langley, Virginia, helps carry religious items from church, October 22, 2018, on Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, after Hurricane Michael caused catastrophic damage (U.S. Air Force/Sean Carnes)
Photo By: Senior Airman Sean Carnes
VIRIN: 181023-F-CC297-835

Conclusion

Military chaplains provide commanders with a powerful resource, significantly enabling peace operations as LNOs to humanitarian actors at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. This position should come with the creation of a new SEI—the humanitarian liaison officer (HLNO), who will illuminate the commander’s understanding of the operational picture and help him or her to coordinate with humanitarian agencies in pursuit of national objectives. Military chaplains have not been frequently used outside of their historical role in providing religious accommodation. While this new utilization stretches the traditional boundaries of the chaplain’s role, it does not exceed noncombatant limitations.

On a tactical level, civil affairs teams have been functioning in this space, yet strong evidence suggests that the military would be better served by adding religious specialists to increase this capability. Some humanitarian actors may avoid embracing a chaplain within their organizations. Time and proximity will build relationships based on shared interests between chaplains and humanitarian actors that will enable civil-military coordination. The opportunity costs of implementing this program will include less funding and utilization for other personnel. This program will entail fewer opportunities for other specialties to develop as experts in HA. By making these positions joint, the manpower cost will be shared by all Services, yet there will be fewer chaplains to fill traditional billets.

To meet these requirements, current programs will need reevaluation and prioritization. Training and fellowship programs will remove chaplains from operational utilization for extended periods of time, potentially placing the most qualified officers into a permanent “HLNO track.” To fill training, fellowship, and utilization manning requirements will require eight chaplains per Service branch. In utilizing resources already vetted, trained, and equipped for this type of mission, however, commanders can expect a significant return on investment. Chaplains will develop strategic relationships that will exponentially enable military HA efforts. Further research should look at ways to develop, employ, and combine religious leader liaison, diplomacy, and reconciliation capabilities under the HLNO specialist. JFQ

Notes

1 Beth Allen Cole and Emily Hsu, “NGO-Military Relations in Iraq and Afghanistan: Some Guidelines,” Fires (May–June 2007), 21, available at <https://sill-www.army.mil/firesbulletin/archives/2007/May_Jun_2007/May_Jun_2007.pdf>; Emily Goldman, Power in Uncertain Times: Strategy in the Fog of Peace (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010), 3.

2 Title 10, U.S. Code, § 401, “Humanitarian and Civic Assistance Provided in Conjunction with Military Operations.”

3 Ibid.

4 United Nations (UN) Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination, A Guide for the Military 2.0 (Geneva: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, May 2017), 7, available at <www.unocha.org/sites/unocha/files/Guide%20for%20the%20Military%20v2.pdf>.

5 Ibid.

6 “Fundamental Principles,” International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Web site, available at <http://ifrc-media.org/interactive/fundamental-principles/>.

7 Ibid.

8 Joint Publication (JP) 3-08, Interagency, Intergovernmental Organization, and Nongovernmental Organization Coordination During Joint Operations, vol. 1 (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, March 17, 2006), xii, available at <https://dde.carlisle.army.mil/LLL/DSC/readings/L12_jp3-08v1.pdf>.

9 Humanitarian space describes the shared operational environment that both Department of Defense (DOD) and humanitarian actors wish to shape to alleviate suffering, while also promoting peace.

10 “Fundamental Principles.”

11 Ibid.

12 Todd Greentree, “Bureaucracy Does Its Thing: U.S. Performance and the Institutional Dimension of Strategy in Afghanistan,” Journal of Strategic Studies 36, no. 3 (2013), 345.

13 See InterAction Web site, available at <www.interaction.org/>.

14 David S. Levine, Coordination Without Borders, Assigning U.S. Military Officers to NGO World Headquarters: Rhetoric and Reality (Fort Leavenworth, KS: School of Advanced Military Studies, 2008), 47.

15 “Fundamental Principles”; InterAction Web site.

16 JP 1-05, Religious Affairs in Joint Operations (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, November 13, 2009), II-1, available at <www.bits.de/NRANEU/others/jp-doctrine/jp1_05%2809%29.pdf>.

17 DOD Instruction 1304.28, Guidance for the Appointment of Chaplains for the Military Departments (Washington, DC: DOD, June 11, 2004), available at <www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodi/130428_2004_ch3.pdf>.

18 Ibid., 23.

19 JP 1-05, 8.

20 Ibid.

21 Ibid., I-2.

22 JP 3-57, Civil-Military Operations (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, July 9, 2018), I-2, available at <www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_57.pdf?ver=2018-09-13-134111-460>.

23 JP 1-05, viii.

24 “Guidelines for Relations Between U.S. Armed Forces and NGHOs in Hostile or Potentially Hostile Environments,” U.S. Institute of Peace, July 1, 2007, available at <www.usip.org/publications/2007/07/guidelines-relations-between-us-armed-forces-and-nghos-hostile-or-potentially>.

25 Kleet A. Barclay, The Future of AF Worship Services: To Be or Not to Be (Maxwell AFB: Air War College, 2016), 2.

26 Ibid., 19.

27 Ibid., 2.

28 JP 3-08, vol. 1, I-3.

29 Ibid.

30 See International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Web site, available at <www.icrc.org/en>.

31 Levine, Coordination Without Borders, Assigning U.S. Military Officers to NGO World Headquarters, 22; Anup Shah, “Non-Governmental Organizations on Development Issues,” Global Issues, June 1, 2005, available at <www.globalissues.org/article/25/non-governmental-organizations-on-development-issues>.

32 “Fundamental Principles.”

33 JP 3-57, ix.

34 Ibid., x.

35 Ibid., xi.

36 Ibid., xii.

37 Ibid., I-17.

38 The U.S. Army Stability Operations Field Manual: U.S. Army Field Manual No. 3-07 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009), A-77.

39 Ibid., II-20.

40 JP 3-57, I-18.

41 Ibid., I-8.

42 A Guide for the Military 2.0; “Fundamental Principles.”

43 A Guide for the Military 2.0.

44 Ibid.

45 Ibid.

46 Levine, Coordination Without Borders, Assigning U.S. Military Officers to NGO World Headquarters, 41.

47 Ibid., 18.

48 Ibid.

49 “Discover the ICRC,” ICRC Web site, available at <www.icrc.org/en/discover>.

50 “Fundamental Principles.”

51 Ibid.

52 Ibid.

53 See ICRC Web site.

54 JP 3-57, V-2.

55 Ibid., III-14.

56 Ibid.

57 William Sean Lee, Christopher J. Burke, and Zonna M. Crayne, Military Chaplains as Peace Builders: Embracing Indigenous Religions in Stability Operations (Maxwell AFB: Air University Press, February 2005), 20.

58 Levine, Coordination Without Borders, Assigning U.S. Military Officers to NGO World Headquarters, 55.

59 Robert R. Sarnoski, “United States Air Force International Affairs Specialist Program,” DISAM Journal 28, no. 1 (Fall 2005), 12–14, available at <https://fas.org/asmp/resources/govern/109th/DisamJournal28-1.pdf>; Air Force Instruction 16-109, International Affairs Specialist Program (Washington, DC: Headquartes Department of the Air Force, July 11, 2017), 4, available at <www.safia.hq.af.mil/Portals/72/documents/AFI_16-109.pdf?ver=2017-09-27-132654-920&timestamp=1506533233846>.

60 Ibid.

61 Douglas Johnston and Cynthia Sampson, eds., Religion: The Missing Dimension of Statecraft (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 292.

62 JP 3-57, I-7.

63 InterAction Web site.

64 Andru E. Wall, “Demystifying the Title 10-Title 50 Debate: Distinguishing Military Operations, Intelligence Activities, and Covert Action,” Harvard National Security Journal 3, (2011), 98, available at <https://harvardnsj.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2012/01/Vol-3-Wall.pdf>.

65 Barclay, The Future of AF Worship Services, iv.

66 Reverend Donald Eubank, interview by author, March 13, 2018. Lieutenant Colonel Donald Eubank, USA (Ret.), serves as the military endorser for the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.