Air Force chaplains train South Korean air force counterparts

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Eric Burks
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Republic of Korea Air Force chaplain corps personnel from across the peninsula gathered at Osan recently for Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, or ASIST, facilitated by Air Force chaplains.

The occasion marked the first time joint training had been conducted between chaplains of the allied air forces.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Michael Heuer, a staff chaplain at the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, said the event was historic.

"Suicide is not just an issue in our armed forces, but one our allies face as well," said Chaplain Heuer, one of three Air Force chaplains on temporary duty here to conduct the training.

"We have experience with the program and wanted to share our knowledge," he said. "We're very excited and we love working with our Korean colleagues."

Nearly 90 ROKAF chaplains -- Protestant, Catholic and Buddhist -- and military civilian counselors attended the ASIST workshop.

Classes were broken down into groups of company grade officer chaplains and field grade officer chaplains. Each group received two days of training, a combination of lectures, video presentations, interactive discussions and role-playing scenarios.

ASIST has been used in the Air Force for nearly a decade, Chaplain Heuer said. Workshops don't just focus on suicide awareness or recognition, but are designed to develop intervention techniques. Learning and practicing these skills gives chaplains and caregivers the tools to help people who may be considering suicide.

"People are really the same everywhere," he said. "It's important for us, regardless of nationality, to be able to talk about the problem openly if we want to prevent (suicides)."

Suicide is not a respecter of cultures, said Chaplain (Maj.) Randall Jamieson, senior protestant chaplain at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C. "The more people who have training, the greater impact we'll have."

"As chaplains, we're all in this to help people," said Chaplain (Capt.) Shin Soh, from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. "Whether in the U.S. Air Force, ROKAF or other service, one suicide is too many."

Col. Yong Man Moon, ROKAF chief of chaplains, said that success with the training would not have been possible without the help of Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Cecil Richardson, Air Force chief of chaplains, and the Air Force chaplain corps.

"By receiving a field-tested Air Force training program we gained invaluable insight into the actions and skills necessary to prevent suicide," said Colonel Moon. "I believe that the participants in this program will play an active role in suicide prevention within ROKAF and will contribute to improving the effectiveness of ROKAF chaplains and counselors in general."