Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Current Buddhist Military Chaplains

Noticed erroneous information in a NY Times article today, which stated that there is only one Buddhist chaplain in the U.S. Armed Forces. This is incorrect: We have THREE commissioned Chaplains who have served or are serving on Active Duty: myself, Chaplain Somya Malasri, and Chaplain Thomas Dyer. We are all endorsed by the Buddhist Churches of America, which is (yes) a religious organization.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Soldier 360°

There is growing interest in meditation in the U.S. Armed Forces: From Army Times:

Soldier 360° teaches holistic healing

By John Ryan - Staff editor
Posted : Saturday Apr 23, 2011 8:20:12 EDT
An Army program has adopted some old Eastern practices to help allay modern post-combat stress. The Soldier 360° program in Germany is teaching soldiers and their spouses how to deal with trauma and rebuild relationships using holistic tactics, including yoga, acupuncture and meditation.

“This course has taught me that you do not have to know all the answers or be perfect — just be open-minded, forgiving, and respectful of each other’s individual differences,” Chief Warrant Officer Wendy King, who recently completed the course, said in an April 7 news release.


Learn more about Soldier 360°

Here’s what you need to know about Soldier 360°:

Like the Army-wide Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, a holistic plan to help improve the physical, social, spiritual, emotional and familial aspects of troops’ lives, Soldier 360° also offers soldiers tools to help regain physical health and “psychological readiness” before the onset of more serious post-deployment problems.

Through a series of seminars and activities led by instructors and experts, the program ushers noncommissioned officers and spouses through a six-phase, behavior-modifying process called “learn, do, practice, model, teach, and change,” according to the Combined Arms Training Center in Grafenwoehr, Germany, which offers the course.

The program strives to derail soldiers from well-traveled paths toward addiction and depression after surviving combat. It highlights methods to manage stress, anger, pain and booze, and relays techniques to relax, eat right and express oneself in journals and through humor. Soldiers are also encouraged to push pause during life to reduce stress and refocus.

Back at their units, graduates of the program are expected to pass on coping techniques to subordinates and peers struggling with stress or anxiety, or guide them to get help.

“Every community is unique and soldiers need to be familiar with the agencies available to provide them support,” said Col. Mary S. Lopez, director of strategic initiatives for a medical command in Germany.

The year-old program has been targeted at staff sergeants, the rank of most squad leaders, because its organizers believe they have the “greatest impact on the health and wellness of the unit.” But, according to the Combined Arms Training Center, the program can be expanded to other Army groups.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Hanamatsuri 2011

A Happy Hanamatsuri to all our blog readers! May we all recommit ourselves to the Dharma teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha in this year.

Namu Kie Butsu (I take refuge in Buddha)
Namu Kie Ho (I take refuge in Dharma)
Namu Kie So (I take refuge in Sangha)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Operation Tomodachi

From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

THURSDAY, APRIL 7, 2011 AT 9:09 P.M.

Marines from Camp Pendleton’s 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment clear debris piled up on Oshima Island in Japan. U.S. Marines

The Marines taught Cpl. Adam Shatarsky to use his field shovel to dig fighting holes.

In Japan, however, the Camp Pendleton Marine found himself using it to rescue photographs and family heirlooms from piles of rubble.

Shatarsky knew nothing would be quite normal after arriving in Oshima, the Japanese island where 300 Marines spent the past week righting boats and clearing away homes toppled by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

“One of the things that struck me right off the bat, there was a car flipped upside down on top of a tree,” said the 29-year-old Marine from Camp Pendleton’s 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.

“I’ve never seen anything like that before. The very first thing that stuck out in my mind was — there’s a lot to be done here.”

The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit was dispatched as part of the U.S. military’s recovery effort in Japan, called Operation Tomodachi or Operation Friends.

With it went about 1,200 San Diego County Marines who supply the unit’s infantry contingent.

The San Diego-based aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan and its support ships were among the first American ships on the scene along Japan’s damaged northeast coast. After three weeks of assistance, the Reagan group departed this week.

A 7.1-magnitude aftershock that hit Thursday did not damage any U.S. military assets or harm American troops, the Pentagon said.

About 45 miles from earthquake’s epicenter, Oshima got a wallop from the March 11 tsunami waves. Passenger ferries that service the island’s towns washed ashore, landing 400 feet up the beach, according to the Marines.

The island became a snarl of destruction. The Japanese forces couldn’t dock to help the 3,000 townspeople; there was too much debris in the water.

Enter the Marines.

They arrived in landing craft that are intended to deliver boots onto beaches. Dating to World War II, these vessels put down a ramp and Marines troop out.

Cpl. Seth McConville, a 22-year-old from Murrieta, said it was immediately clear to him that the hand of friendship would need a sturdy working glove.

“Anything you could see was destroyed and pulled toward the water, or in the water. Definitely, no one was landing there besides us,” he said.

“That’s when a couple of us were like, ‘Oh, man, this place is wrecked.’ ”

Arriving Saturday, the Marines dug in. They began clearing roads and bays.

It was cold work, with snow fluttering down some days. They slept in tents and ate prepackaged meals.

Initially, the shellshocked Oshima citizens watched from a respectful distance, waving and offering thank-yous in shaky English.

But as the Marines attacked the mess with shovels, rakes, even garden hoes, the Japanese residents started coming around.

“When they got used to us being there, and seeing what we were all about, they started coming down with personal requests,” said Shatarsky, who lives in Huntington Beach.

The residents had belongings in the homes that were now, quite literally, upside down. Before the bulldozers turned the houses into piles, the owners hoped to retrieve their irreplaceables.

“The people didn’t have the strength to get in there and pull that stuff out,” said unit spokesman Capt. Caleb Eames, in a telephone interview from the amphibious assault ship Essex.

“It took the Marines to climb in there and pull stuff out of the way, and to lift up corners of broken roofs to get in there and pull the stuff out,” he said.

“I personally watched one lady just in tears, thanking these guys for saving a family heirloom, a big tub for making sushi,” Eames said.

It was five days of elbow grease.

In addition to the troops on the ground, Marine helicopters delivered supplies to the shore and flew reconnaissance missions.

In recent days, American troops arrived with portable hot shower units. The delivery meant the first hot showers for residents in weeks.

Schooled as a mortar man, Shatarsky said none of his training as a Marine really applied to this situation.

But, he added, it didn’t matter.

“Toward the end, it wasn’t like the Japanese and the Marines were separated. It was kind of like everyone coming together,” he said.

“And I don’t think people need training for that. I think in a time of need, people just come together.”

Operation Tomodachi

Since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, U.S. military forces have been providing humanitarian assistance under Operation Tomodachi, or Operation Friends.

U.S. 7th Fleet forces have delivered more than 260 tons of relief supplies and flown more than 160 aerial reconnaissance and search sorties.

Involved in the effort

• Four ships – the Essex, Tortuga, Blue Ridge and Safeguard

• 54 aircraft

• 4,295 personnel, including about 1,200 Marines from a Camp Pendleton infantry battalion serving with a unit assigned to the Essex

Previously involved

The San Diego-based Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, which includes the Chancellorsville, Preble, Shiloh and Curtis Wilbur, ended active support this week.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Vesak Day at Ft Lewis

From Chaplain Somya Malasri: Vesak Day Celebration at Ft. Lewis, Washington. Time/Date: 7 May 2011 1400-1600.
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