Ten Ukrainian military chaplains have completed two weeks of training with their UK counterparts in the first course of its kind.
That’s according to the UK Defense Ministry.
For the last two weeks, ten chaplains have been embedded with the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department of the British Army to learn more about providing pastoral care, spiritual support and moral guidance during military operations – and the post-war rebuilding period that ultimately follows.
They will now deploy to the front line of Ukraine’s conflict with Russia, where their task will be to build hope and restore spirits as troops battle to reclaim Ukraine’s sovereign territory.
The course, which was developed by British military chaplains, and supported by the UK Armed Forces under Operation Orbital, came in response to a request from the Armed Forces of Ukraine, aimed to equip participants with the religious and practical resources needed to support personnel through the most challenging aspects of operations – from bereavement and loss, to mental health difficulties.
The Reverend Michael D Parker KHC CF, Chaplain General, said: “It has been the greatest of privileges to work with our Ukrainian Partner Forces to develop an understanding of chaplaincy within high intensity warfare. Together, we have examined the centrality of the moral component of fighting power and the part chaplains play in monitoring and sustaining this. They have been able to teach us as much as we have been able to teach them.”
“The ability to deliver pastoral care, spiritual support and moral guidance has made chaplaincy a critical capability for Ukrainian commanders. Chaplains are in demand and it is truly humbling to be asked to support them in deepening their understanding of their role within war. These ten chaplains have answered the call of their nation; they are no longer just our international partners, they are our colleagues and friends. I pray that God will bless, protect and guide them as they return to Ukraine,” he added.
There are currently 160 chaplains within the growing, multi-faith Chaplaincy branch of the Ukrainian military, which was formally established in 2021. There are aspirations to grow their ranks to 738 chaplains, to ensure that spiritual and pastoral support is available across units, hospitals and training sites.
Reverend Robin Richardson, Chaplain, Royal Army Chaplain’s Department, was responsible for developing the programme. He said: “Wherever there are people, they need the spiritual support, moral guidance and pastoral care that chaplains bring, whether they are in units, in hospitals or training establishments.”
“These ministers are driven by their faith to step out of the door, unarmed, into the face of any enemy so that they can provide care for people of all beliefs. They are operating in circumstances that we could never dream of experiencing ourselves, drawing on their faith to support those navigating the chaos of war and doing everything they can to give soldiers hope. The hope is that the planning tools, religious and pastoral resources, and hands-on experience we have provided will only make them more effective in their roles on the front line,” he said.
A significant proportion of the programme was devoted to delivering chaplaincy within an operational context, with participants supporting troops who are currently undergoing battlefield training in Wiltshire as part of the UK-led training of Ukrainian recruits. The bespoke programme highlights the broad range of training the UK has delivered to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which has also included basic infantry training, medical training, and training on Challenger 2 tanks.
The UK and its allies have to date trained more than 15,000 Armed Forces of Ukraine personnel in areas such as the fundamentals of frontline combat and more specialised training. The five-week training programme for basic recruits sees them receive instruction in weapons handling, battlefield first aid, fieldcraft, patrol tactics and the Law of Armed Conflict, enabling them to effectively defend their country on their return to Ukraine.
The UK Government provided £2.3 billion of military aid to Ukraine in 2022 and the Prime Minister has committed to match this in 2023, having already supplied more than 10,000 anti-tank missiles, 100,000 rounds of artillery ammunition (with 100,000 more planned for supply in 2023), vital air defence capability, including more than a hundred anti-aircraft guns, as well as self-propelled artillery.