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Aurora chaplain counsels troops in Botswana

Updated: November 30, 2012 11:05AM

U.S. forces that traveled to the Republic of Botswana this month for Southern Accord 2012 are under the spiritual care of Army Chaplain Capt. M. Paul Weberg of Aurora, and chaplain’s assistants Sgt. Vincent N. Guzman Sr., and Spc. David Huerta, all from the 405th Brigade Support Battalion of Chicago.

Botswana Defense Force chaplain Lt. Obert Magagwa, from Botswana Defense Force headquarters in Gaborone, Botswana, joined with the U.S. unit ministry team from Aug. 1-17 to aid and counsel defense force members, so that all parties involved receive the benefits associated with having this specific kind of support.

The U.S. military travels all over the world, and service members can undoubtedly encounter many different kinds of stressors, from missing loved ones to battle fatigue, there are many situations soldiers face that may call for a special kind of attention.

“Soldiers need to know that even though we run chapel on the weekend, we’re not just here to run chapel on the weekend,” Weberg said.

Weberg is a Catholic priest and Benedictine monk at Marmion Abbey in Aurora. He also teaches high school students at the Marmion Academy.

“The three main functions of the UMT are to nurture the living, care for the wounded and honor the dead … we want to be able to take complete care of the soldier,” Guzman said.

During the Botswana mission the chaplains make their rounds, dividing their time between meetings in the office and going to onsite training operations to meet with service members there.

“There is an element, which I treasure within the chaplaincy in which we participate in the ministry of presence,” Magagwa said, “and just that can boost the moral of those people who are present.”

The UMT mission is to provide both U.S. and the Botswana Defense Force religious and spiritual support for those who need it. Anything that deals with moral, spiritual life and protecting the service member’s right to exercise or not to exercise their religion is what chaplains are there to safeguard, Weberg said.

“One soldier jokingly mentioned, while we were getting on the plane to come here, ‘This mission is going to be great, God is coming with us,’ and that is very humbling because you know where you stand, and it’s a great honor but also a great responsibility,” Weberg said.

Army Sgt. Charlie Helmholt is with the 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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