Fort Jackson Commanding General, Brig. Gen. Patrick Michaelis meets with Maj. Gen. Musfer Hassan M. Alqahtani and the Saudi Arabian delegation over a meal at the Chaplain School Nov. 29. (By Mel Slater)
By Mel Slater, Chaplain Center and School
The Chaplain School trains chaplains and religious affairs specialists to go among our Soldiers wherever they are in the world and provide religious service support – no matter what religion.
The school occasionally trains clergy from other militaries from around the world. South Korea, Serbia and Canada are some of the countries that have sent their soldiers here to train.
Recently, members of another country came to Fort Jackson for a two-day visit.
A team from Saudi Arabia came to Fort Jackson get a closer view at the type of organization and training provided at the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School.
The visiting team of seven was led by Maj. Gen. Musfer Hassan M. Alqahtani. He is the Assistant General Director of the General Administration of Religious Affairs, and is the Saudi Arabian Army equivalent to the U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains, Chap. (Maj. Gen.) Thomas Solhjem.
The Chaplain School “hosted an international delegation visit from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Headed by their two-star chief of religious affairs, the Saudis sought to establish a relationship with both (the Chaplain School and the Office of the Chief of Chaplains), and both were simultaneously accomplished here at the Heart of Home of the Chaplain Corps,” said Chap. (Col.) James Palmer, Jr., Chaplain School commandant, “The topic focus for the visit centered on extremism as well as their plans for further developing their chaplaincy and religious affairs effort toward fostering acceptance and a spirit of moderation as they provide religious support.”
The team expressed an interest in sharing religious affairs resources, educational and training opportunities between U.S. and Saudi military students. The desired goal is establish relationships and future cooperation.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s directorate general of religious affairs team is developing a program to combat and treat manifestations of extremism, terrorism, and instilling a culture of moderation within the Ministry of Defense, in cooperation with the Department of Defense and other defense entities,” said Maj. Joshua Levine, U.S. Air Force Central Command, the escort for the Saudi Arabia delegation.
The team arrived Nov. 29 for their two-day visit and met with the Chaplain School command team of Palmer, Deputy Commandant, Chap. (Col.) Shmuel Felzenberg and acting senior enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Elian Strachan. Also present was Chap. Imam (Col.) Khalid Shabbaz, Army Central Command chaplain. The groups sat down together for a light breakfast and introductions.
Palmer led the group on a campus tour before sitting down for briefings and discussions about the chaplain organization and operations. The visiting team sat for a delicious lunch of Middle Eastern cuisine with the Fort Jackson Commanding General, Brig. Gen. Patrick Michaelis at the school after the tour. The two generals had a good discussion over a meal and found common ground with a known acquaintance.
After lunch the team had an opportunity to observe Chaplain Basic Officer Leader Course class 21-003 training before ending the day’s activities.
“The visit was a tremendous success of significant proportion which may well bear fruit for years to come and serve the mutual benefit of both nations, their armed forces, and the respective chaplaincies which support those who serve in uniform,” Palmer said.
Day two began with the group arriving around 9 a.m. being taken on small trip to the Main Post Chapel. They then received a tour of the Army Chaplain Corps Museum.
“The museum tour went fine. They liked the 9th Ordnance Battalion altar in the World War II section, intrigued with how the pieces were constructed. The Combat Assault Muslim Chaplain Kit was a hit, as well,” said Museum Director, Marcia McManus. “They also spent some time in the Desert Storm area. In fact, they pointed out a symbol featured on the bedouin tent in a photo of a field service that is actually used in their organization. Possibly their crest.”
The museum visit was followed by lunch with Deputy Chief of Chaplains, Chap. (Brig. Gen.) Bill Green. The discussion turned more towards religious affairs and the potential for collaboration.
Green and Palmer exchange gifts with Musfer and the members of the team members from Saudi Arabia. Both groups expressed their appreciation of the meeting and discussion of future possibilities to meet again and work together in the future.