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Doctrinal tension: the chaplain and information operations.


Army chaplains and chaplain assistants serving in Afghanistan have numerous opportunities to interact with local Muslim clergy. The mullah, or religious leader, of a village is a vital element of village political, religious, and cultural life. Many chaplains reach out to mullahs as points of contact for humanitarian activities (donating school supplies; rebuilding orphanages; distributing gifts and candy to Afghan children in hospital) conducted by U.S. Soldiers. With the permission of unit commanders, chaplains frequently engage in these humanitarian missions.


A potential controversy exists when a chaplain is asked for specific information from commanders or intelligence officers related to his interaction with local mullahs. Chaplains, as doctrinal doc·tri·nal  
Characterized by, belonging to, or concerning doctrine.

doctri·nal·ly adv.

Adj. 1.
 non-combatants, could be placed in the awkward position of providing targeting information to commanders, a combatant task. In order to examine the doctrinal tension between chaplains and Information Operations Actions taken to affect adversary information and information systems while defending one's own information and information systems. Also called IO. See also defensive information operations; information; offensive information operations; operation.  (IO), we will first review the roles and responsibilities of Army chaplains. Next we will examine the components and capabilities of IO. Finally, a discussion of chaplains' experiences in Afghanistan related to mullah engagements (religious leader liaison) and IO will illustrate the tensions in this fragile relationship with suggestions for success for the overall mission of the commander.

Doctrinal Guidelines

The two guiding Army documents that articulate the roles and responsibilities of chaplains are Field Manual (FM) 1-05, Religious Support, and Army Regulation (AR) 165-1, Chaplain Activities in the United States Army United States Army

Major branch of the U.S. military forces, charged with preserving peace and security and defending the nation. The first regular U.S. fighting force, the Continental Army, was organized by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, to supplement local
. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, reinforced by Title 10 of the U.S. Code, guarantees every American the right to the free exercise of religion. Americans in the military enjoy this right as well as civilians. Commanders are responsible for insuring the religious freedoms of their troops through the chaplain as a staff officer. FM 1-05 states:
  The mission of the Unit Ministry Team (UMT) is to provide and perform
  religious support to soldiers, families, and authorized civilians as
  directed by the commander. Chaplains serve as personal staff officers
  to commanders at all levels of the command providing essential
  information on troop and unit morale, quality of life matters, free
  exercise of religion issues, ethical decision making, and the impact
  of religion on the operation. (1)

The religious support activities of chaplains are widely known. They consist of religious services, counseling, religious education, advisor to the commander and staff, and other activities, including coordinating "religious/humanitarian support." The FM states that such support includes humanitarian support programs on issues of religion, morale, morals, and ethics." (2) The chaplain, by doctrine, then is to assist the commander with religious/humanitarian support. Chaplains are also, by regulation, to "provide liaison to indigenous religious leaders in close coordination with the G5." (3) Additionally, chaplains coordinate with elements of the G9 (Civil Affairs Designated Active and Reserve component forces and units organized, trained, and equipped specifically to conduct civil affairs activities and to support civil-military operations. Also called CA. See also civil affairs activities; civil-military operations. ) in religious liaison/mullah engagements. (4)


Information Operations

Based primarily on advanced technology, IO is an element of combat power. It encompasses attacking adversary command and control (C2) systems while protecting friendly C2 from adversary disruption. Thus IO has both offensive and defensive capabilities. The goal of IO is to produce information superiority That degree of dominance in the information domain which permits the conduct of operations without effective opposition. See also information operations.  over the enemy at decisive points. Commanders conduct IO to apply combat power to achieve information superiority on the battlefield. Enemy intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR (Interrupt Service Routine) Software routine that is executed in response to an interrupt. ), and targeting are all part of IO. Offensive IO seeks to destroy, degrade TO DEGRADE, DEGRADING. To, sink or lower a person in the estimation of the public.
     2. As a man's character is of great importance to him, and it is his interest to retain the good opinion of all mankind, when he is a witness, he cannot be compelled to disclose
, disrupt, deny, deceive, and exploit enemy forces. A high value target of IO is enemy center of gravity, typically communication and headquarters locations, to target enemy decision makers and information systems.

IO maximizes the use of technology to shape the combat power of friendly forces. In FM 3-13, Information Operations, the following summary of IO is provided:
  "Commanders conduct (plan, prepare, execute, and assess) IO to apply
  the information element of combat power. Combined with information
  management and ISR operations; effective IO results in gaining and
  maintaining information superiority. Information superiority creates
  conditions that allow commanders to shape the operational environment
  and enhance the effects of all elements of combat power. IO has two
  categories, offensive IO and defensive IO. Commanders conduct IO by
  synchronizing IO elements and related activities, each of which may
  be used either offensively or defensively."

  "IO brings together several previously separate functions as IO
  elements and related activities. To provide unity of effort, IO is
  placed under a special staff officer, the assistant chief of staff
  G7. The G7 has coordinating staff responsibility for IO. He does this
  by means of the G7 section and IO cell. Placing responsibility for
  synchronizing the activities of the IO elements and related
  activities on one special staff officer helps commanders mass their
  effects to gain and maintain information superiority." (5)

The Army chaplain is a noncombatant. As a religious leader and a staff officer, AR 165-1 states, "Chaplains are noncombatants and will not bear arms." (6) This regulation is clear enough. The confusion relates to the idea of information as a weapon, and that a chaplain may receive information that IO personnel in the G2, G3, or G7 would like to use in offensive action against enemy forces. There is no approved doctrinal standard for the role of the chaplain in IO. However, AR 165-1 does suggest possible roles of the chaplain. For example, it states that, "Commanders will detail or assign chaplains only to duties related to their profession. Chaplains may perform unrelated duties in a temporary military emergency." It also states that a commander will not detail a chaplain as an "information" officer. AR 165-1 further states, "Commanders will not ... require a chaplain to serve in a capacity in which he or she may later be called upon to reveal privileged or sensitive information incident to such service." (7)

The Army chaplain will have some role in advising the commander on religious and cultural issues in the area of operations (AO). FM 1-05 states that the chaplain will provide "support to the commander on matters of religion, morals, and morale, as affected by religion and the impact of indigenous religions on the military mission." (8) It further states that the chaplain will "provide liaison to indigenous religious leaders in close coordination with the G5/S5." (9) The question remains: "At what point does a chaplain as a religious advisor to the commander cross the line and partake of combatant activities in IO?"

Army chaplains concerned about their involvement with IO are on safe ground when they concentrate their efforts primarily on providing religious support to soldiers. Religious support includes religious services, rites, sacraments, ordinances, pastoral care and counseling, religious education, and humanitarian support. As a staff officer, the chaplain supports the commander and staff, administrates, and acts as an advisor to the command on indigenous religions. (10) As one chaplain stated, "It is conceivable to witness commanders demanding that chaplains provide information advantageous to U.S. forces that may be gleaned from a liaison and contact with local religious leaders. One would be naive to think that the chaplaincy would be exempt from the pressure of a well-meaning but ill-advised commander." (11) The focus of chaplain ministries must first be on religious support to the soldiers within the unit and not on humanitarian missions to indigenous peoples.


The expanding role of religion in contemporary operations will increase the requests for religious advice on local populations. The senior chaplain should be a subject matter expert in this area, a key point of contact in advising the commander. When the opportunity arises to perform a religious liaison with local clergy, such as the mullah engagements in Afghanistan, chaplains should follow the following guidelines:

* A religious liaison mission must be endorsed by the commander.

* The chaplain must staff his intentions with the G2, G3, G5 and G9 sections.

* Only chaplains of field grade (Major) or higher should participate.

* Emphasis should be on common humanitarian and religious concerns and not on political/military matters.

* After the mission, chaplains are not to provide information related to targeting or offensive operations to the command. Some non-lethal targeting information may be appropriately shared with the command, such as the location of schools, religious sites, and orphanages.

In stability and support operations Stability and support operations involve military forces providing safety and support to friendly noncombatants while suppressing and threatening forces.

SASO operations can occur in everything from natural disaster areas (earthquakes, storms and flooding) to insurgencies
, chaplains will have an increasing role in engaging indigenous religious leaders to help facilitate the peace keeping and nation building missions of U.S. troops. This liaison role of Army chaplains with local clergy must be practiced with caution, as more and more demand on chaplain religious expertise will be requested by IO personnel. As one chaplain warned, "Caution must be applied to avoid the slippery slope 'slippery slope' Medical ethics An ethical continuum or 'slope,' the impact of which has been incompletely explored, and which itself raises moral questions that are even more on the ethical 'edge' than the original issue  of grasping for a deeper and inappropriate role. With an increasing command emphasis on IO, the [Chaplain] Corps must guard against justifying its value in its role in IO." (12) The role of a chaplain is justified as a provider of religious support to all soldiers, not as a tool of IO to coerce intelligence from indigenous clergy.

The Role of Religion in IO

In Operation Enduring Freedom, religious issues weighed heavily in the commander's decision making process. Religion served as a source of information and as a type of information. As foreigners in a Muslim land, the sensitivity to religious issues for U.S. troops in Afghanistan was paramount. The customs and rituals of Islam are unknown to most Americans, making it increasingly important for chaplains to advise commanders and soldiers on the religious/spiritual aspects of indigenous Afghans. (13)

Chaplains are expected to provide the commander information related to the religious customs and practices of indigenous peoples. In Afghanistan, the typical U.S. soldier has no idea of the differences between Sunni or Shiite, and between a mullah and an imam. First, the chaplain must determine what types of religious information are essential for the commander to understand. Next, the chaplain analyzes the local population to see how it understands these categories. Finally, the chaplain briefs the commander and staff and soldiers as appropriate. This type of religious advice to a commander is standard practice in the Army chaplaincy, a typical responsibility understood by all chaplains.

Army chaplains are not in the intelligence gathering business. Chaplains, as religious advisors, must not allow themselves to drift too far into the realm of IO. It is one thing to interact with local religious leaders to facilitate dialogue and understanding to better advise the commander on the impact of local religions on the military mission. It is another thing altogether for a chaplain to gather information in a religious liaison capacity that unethically could be used for targeting or other offensive operations. (14) Afghan religious leaders place a high value on clergy. The U.S. Army chaplain can engage in a respectful dialogue and exchange of ideas and cultural sensitivities in discussions with indigenous clergy. But the sacredness of such dialogue must not be compromised by IO personnel eager to glean glean  
v. gleaned, glean·ing, gleans

To gather grain left behind by reapers.
1. To gather (grain) left behind by reapers.

 any information from the chaplain that may help their mission. A military chaplain who compromises the sacred bond between clergy will be instantly discredited by Afghan clerics, promoting distrust and disdain of all U.S. personnel.

There are some legitimate ways a chaplain can serve as a staff officer in general support of IO. Chaplains working as liaisons with indigenous clergy can have a positive influence on the way American intentions and operations are perceived. These chaplain "liaison officers" are a part of IO and require a thorough understanding of the key religious leaders, religious worldview world·view  
n. In both senses also called Weltanschauung.
1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.

2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group.
 of the population, and social structure. The G2, G3, G5, and IO personnel often overlook or under emphasize this understanding. The staff chaplain, as a liaison with indigenous clergy, can be a crucial person in the analysis of religion and culture in IO, preventing U.S. and allied troops from committing cultural or religious blunders. For example, Joint Publication (JP) 1-05 allows the chaplain to advise commanders through their liaison roles with host nation religious leaders. Army Field Manual 1-05 states the same thing, instructing chaplains to support the Commander through relationships with indigenous clergy. (15)

The optimal time to integrate the analysis of religion and culture is during the mission analysis phase of the military decision making process (MDMP MDMP Military Decision-Making Process
MDMP Million Dollar Mouthpiece
MDMP Mediterranean Dialogue Military Program
). This responsibility generally falls upon the G2/J2 Plans section. Here the chaplain can provide input as to the role of religion on military operations This is a list of missions, operations, and projects. Missions in support of other missions are not listed independently. World War I
''See also List of military engagements of World War I
  • Albion (1917)
. Since IO sections can be small and limited in time and religious resources, ad hoc For this purpose. Meaning "to this" in Latin, it refers to dealing with special situations as they occur rather than functions that are repeated on a regular basis. See ad hoc query and ad hoc mode.  members are necessary to develop the cultural analysis requirement. It is here that a staff chaplain can contribute significantly. During the mission analysis, the IO section develops the IO Intelligence Preparation of the Battlespace An analytical methodology employed to reduce uncertainties concerning the enemy, environment, and terrain for all types of operations. Intelligence preparation of the battlespace builds an extensive database for each potential area in which a unit may be required to operate.  (IPB IPB Invision Power Board (forum)
IPB International Peace Bureau
IPB Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield
IPB International Personal Banking
IPB Illustrated Parts Breakdown
IPB Institute of Plant Breeding
). Essential elements of IO IPB include: an in-depth analysis of religion; an awareness of important religious and cultural dates and observances; an understanding of religious and social structure, and recognition of key religious leaders and their probable influence.

FM 3-13 defines IO as " ... the employment of the core capabilities of electronic warfare Noun 1. electronic warfare - military action involving the use of electromagnetic energy to determine or exploit or reduce or prevent hostile use of the electromagnetic spectrum

military action, action - a military engagement; "he saw action in Korea"
, computer network operations Computer Network Operations (CNO) is a U.S. military doctrinal term which comprises computer network attack, computer network defense, and related computer network exploitation enabling operations. , psychological operations Planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals. , military deception Actions executed to deliberately mislead adversary military decision makers as to friendly military capabilities, intentions, and operations, thereby causing the adversary to take specific actions (or inactions) that will contribute to the accomplishment of the friendly mission. , and operations security A process of identifying critical information and subsequently analyzing friendly actions attendant to military operations and other activities to: a. identify those actions that can be observed by adversary intelligence systems; b. , in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to affect or defend information and information systems, and to influence decision making." (16) The FM specifically excludes the chaplain from the list of coordinating, special, and personal staff who have IO planning and support responsibilities. UMT UMT University of Management and Technology (Lahore, Pakistan)
UMT Unit Ministry Team
UMT Universal Military Training
UMT Union Marocaine du Travail (French: Union of Moroccan Workers)
UMT Uranium Mill Tailings
 personnel, both chaplains and chaplain assistants, should not be involved in the planning or execution of IO with the sole exceptions of security for themselves and friendly forces and the location of sacred or humanitarian sites.

All the core and supporting IO capabilities and functions, with the exception of operational and physical security, are either combatant tasks which chaplains, as noncombatants, are not legally authorized to directly engage in or highly technical tasks which are outside the realm of chaplain's professional responsibilities. Chaplain assistants, though combatants, should not be involved in the planning or execution of IO with the same exceptions, because their close association with the chaplain could create the appearance or contribute to the perception of the chaplain's involvement in IO. (17)

Chaplains as Liaisons with Indigenous Clergy and IO

Afghanistan is a religious country. Almost 100 percent of Afghans practice some type of Islam. Religion is a major cultural factor throughout all levels of the society. The role of religion and clergy in peacekeeping and nation building here must not be devalued de·val·ue   also de·val·u·ate
v. de·val·ued also de·valu·at·ed, de·val·u·ing also de·val·u·at·ing, de·val·ues also de·val·u·ates
1. To lessen or cancel the value of.
. Most senior U.S. Army chaplains, as clergy and as officers, are well suited to advise commanders on religious issues and to act as intermediaries between military and indigenous religious leaders. Chaplains are positioned to communicate with local religious leaders to promote trust, coordination, problem solving problem solving

Process involved in finding a solution to a problem. Many animals routinely solve problems of locomotion, food finding, and shelter through trial and error.
, and to reduce local violence. (18) They can serve their commanders by acting as mediators with local mullahs or imams to build a relationship for civil military operations (CMO CMO

See: Collateralized mortgage obligation


See collateralized mortgage obligation (CMO).
). Any role for a chaplain as a liaison with indigenous clergy must be balanced by security concerns, by the commander's intent, and by the skills and willingness of the chaplain. Some chaplains, for theological reasons, opt not to serve as religious liaisons to local clergy.

The primary role of Army chaplains is to minister to the troops, the commander, and his staff. But chaplains as staff officers do have a role in networking with indigenous clergy. Chaplains can help to win the hearts and minds of local populations in support of U.S. policies to rebuild a peaceful Afghanistan which lawfully elects its own leaders and maintains a civil and humane society A humane society is a group that aims to stop animal suffering due to cruelty or other reasons. Examples
Examples of humane societies include: The Humane Society of the United States, Peninsula Humane Society, American Humane which was founded in 1877 as a network of
. The role of Army chaplains as liaisons with local clergy is mentioned in FM 1-05, which states: "Chaplains will support the commander through advisement Deliberation; consultation.

A court takes a case under advisement after it has heard the arguments made by the counsel of opposing sides in the lawsuit but before it renders its decision.

 in the following areas that may influence CMO: Relations with indigenous religious leaders when directed by the commander." (19) When Army chaplains serve in a Joint Task Force or similar assignment with Navy, Air Force, or Marine personnel, Joint Publication (JP) 1-05 provides guidance on chaplains as religious liaisons. Approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, JP 1-05, Religious Support in Joint Operations A general term to describe military actions conducted by joint forces or by Service forces in relationships (e.g., support, coordinating authority) which, of themselves, do not create joint forces. , states:
  The JFCH [Joint Force Chaplain], after careful consideration and only
  with the Joint Force Commander's approval, may serve as a point of
  contact to host nation (HN) civilian and military religious leaders,
  institutions, and organizations, including established and emerging
  military chaplaincies, through the Civil-Military Operations Center.

As clergy and non-combatants, Army chaplains are respected in the Muslim world The term Muslim world (or Islamic world) has several meanings. In a cultural sense it refers to the worldwide community of Muslims, adherents of Islam. This community numbers about 1.5-2 billion people, about one-fourth of the world. . By this status they are in a position to build bridges and networks with indigenous clergy. Unquestionably un·ques·tion·a·ble  
Beyond question or doubt. See Synonyms at authentic.

, the chaplain's primary role is to provide religious support to Soldiers and their families, yet the role of a chaplain as a liaison to local clergy is clearly mentioned in various military publications. The doctrinal guidance is broad, giving commanders and chaplains flexibility in determining how best to fulfill this responsibility. Due to the ongoing nature of the War on Terror This article is about U.S. actions, and those of other states, after September 11, 2001. For other conflicts, see Terrorism.

The War on Terror (also known as the War on Terrorism
 in Afghanistan, the U.S. will maintain peacekeeping, nation building, and stability operations for the foreseeable future. Since military personnel will have to engage the local population more and more in these operations, chaplains must be prepared to dialogue and interact with indigenous religious and community leaders.

This is not an unusual or unrealistic expectation. In Afghanistan, military Judge Advocate General judge advocate general (J.A.G.) n. a military officer who advises the government on courts-martial and administers the conduct of courts-martial. The officers who are judge advocates and counsel assigned to the accused come from the office of the judge advocate  officers routinely work with the Afghan legal system; military surgeons work closely with Afghan community medical services; military engineers are active throughout Afghanistan working with local contractors on a wide array of construction projects; military Civil Affairs soldiers are active in rebuilding schools and donating school supplies to Afghani af·ghan·i  
n. pl. af·ghan·is
See Table at currency.

[Pashto afghn
 children; and military chaplains throughout Afghanistan are interacting with local mullahs and imams.

Army chaplains routinely coordinate or assist with humanitarian and religious liaison missions. Because of these relationships with indigenous clergy, knowledge is gained through informal conversations that may contain information related to the U.S. military mission. Unsolicited information that affects the security of U.S. and allied forces should be reported. Relaying information about threats against U.S. interests does not violate the non-combatant status of a chaplain. But the chaplain who uses his religious status to gain intelligence from indigenous clergy with the intent of feeding that information to the G2, G3, or the IO staff has crossed the line and has assumed combative com·bat·ive  
Eager or disposed to fight; belligerent. See Synonyms at argumentative.

com·bative·ly adv.
 targeting tasks in violation of the non-combatant status of chaplains.

Chaplains must instruct their commanders and the command staff as to the roles and responsibilities of a chaplain related to IO. It can not be assumed that a commander or a command staff will know the details of what a chaplain can or cannot do related to the chaplain's non-combative status. Commanders must take care not to utilize chaplains against military regulations. FM 1-05 states, "Under Title X of the U.S. Code, Chaplains should not perform the following: Human Intelligence (HUMINT HUMINT Human Intelligence ) collection and/or target acquisition." (21) Commanders must not utilize chaplains as intelligence officers. Chaplains are responsible for advising the commander when such expectations are prevalent. No military regulation states precisely what information a chaplain should or should not relay to the IO staff. The guiding principles are military regulations, maintaining the chaplain's credibility with indigenous religious leaders, guidance from the commander, input from supervisory chaplains, and the conscience of the individual chaplain. These flexible guidelines must be assessed in light of the chaplain's clear understanding of his non-combatant role.

Army chaplains in Afghanistan were frequently involved with humanitarian missions. These missions, typically coordinated by chaplains with local mullahs, helped to renovate schools, supply orphanages, and rebuild mosques. Falling under the general identification of CMO, chaplains on humanitarian missions often worked with Civil Affairs officers and Public Affairs Those public information, command information, and community relations activities directed toward both the external and internal publics with interest in the Department of Defense. Also called PA. See also command information; community relations; public information. . In such relationships the chaplain must protect his non-combatant status, in that both Civil Affairs and Public Affairs soldiers routinely contribute intelligence to IO. In a Muslim culture Muslim culture is a term primarily used in secular academia to describe all cultural practices common to historically Islamic peoples. As the religion of Islam originated in 6th century Arabia, the early forms of Muslim culture were predominantly Arab. , a U.S. Army chaplain is considered a clergyman, a person of esteem at the level of a mullah. The chaplain must ensure that his credibility is not compromised by working on CMO projects with other soldiers who are combatants. As one chaplain stated, "UMTs should ... avoid the appearance of involvement in the execution of IO related activities to avoid undermining their credibility in support of CMO. Part of the reason that UMTs can be effective in conducting the CMO related function of liaison with indigenous religious groups is because of the perception that as religious leaders they will act as "honest brokers." (22)

Contributions of Chaplains to IO: What Can the Chaplain Do?

There are numerous examples of chaplains excelling in their role as a liaison or bridge-builder with local mullahs in Afghanistan. Chaplains were able to successfully perform these liaison and humanitarian missions without compromising their integrity as non-combatants. An example of interacting with indigenous clergy while rejecting the opportunity to feed intelligence to IO personnel was CH (CPT CPT

See: Carriage Paid To
) Eric Eliason, who deployed to Afghanistan during 2004. As chaplain to the 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, CH Eliason refused to provide HUMINT or targeting information while he worked with local mullahs to coordinate the rebuilding of village mosques. (23)

An example of a senior Army chaplain who properly balanced his roles as a religious leader and a staff chaplain was CH (LTC LTC
lieutenant colonel
) Larry Adams-Thompson, the CJTF CJTF combined joint task force (NATO)
CJTF Commander, Joint Task Force
CJTF Coalition Joint Task Force
 76 Chaplain in Afghanistan from March 2004 through March 2005. Continuing the work of his predecessor CH (LTC) Ken Sampson, CH Adams-Thompson organized monthly meetings with local mullahs. The intent of these meetings was to discuss religious issues, moral concerns, and to build clergy-to-clergy relationships. Chaplains obtained funds to assist mullahs in the renovation of village mosques and orphanages. In one encounter, he learned that U.S. funds were readily building Afghan public schools but not the traditional religious schools, the madrassas. This created the perception that the U.S. was secular and not concerned about the religious needs of Afghanistan. CH Adams-Thompson knew that if he could get the construction of some madrassas authorized, a clear message would be sent to the Afghan people that the U.S. cared about the local religion and culture. In reflecting on the relationship between CH Adams-Thompson and local mullahs:
  Note that the feedback from the mullah was not related to combat
  operations. Rather, it provided an awareness of wider issues in the
  area of responsibility (AOR). CH Adams-Thompson encouraged chaplains
  to take similar issues from their meetings with mullahs back to their
  commanders. This example demonstrates how chaplains can advise
  commanding officers on the ways religion impacts the AOR. Local
  religious leaders, who usually are quite influential in their
  communities, can provide unique viewpoints on issues and concerns
  among the populace. Such insight is crucial for commanders, and
  chaplains are often in a unique position to provide it. This
  information is not tactical; rather, it is situational awareness that
  can be utilized to build bridges with the general population. As a
  result of CH Adams-Thompson bringing the education mullah's
  assessment back to the command, approval was given to fund the
  construction of a madrassas in Kapisa Province, the first U.S. effort
  of its kind in Afghanistan. (24)

Staff communication between the chaplain and the commander and his staff is essential to maintaining the unique status of chaplains as non-combatants. As chaplains communicated plainly what they were and were not able to do related to intelligence collection, their commands almost always respected those boundaries. For example, shortly after arriving in Afghanistan. CH Adams-Thompson met with the G2 and told them what he could and could nor do related to IO. He indicated that during his 12 months in Afghanistan the command never asked him to utilize his connections with indigenous clergy in an improper manner. It is the responsibility at the chaplain as a staff officer to inform the command of his non-combatant boundaries. (25) Chaplains must be careful not to allow their networking with local religious leaders to be used inappropriately as targeting or human intelligence collection opportunities. If chaplains allowed themselves to be debriefed by G2. G3, or IO personnel in order to gain information related to combat operations, they would place their unique role as clergy non-combatants in jeopardy.

What the chaplain can or cannot do related to interaction with indigenous clergy is guided by the commander. No commander wants his chaplain kidnapped, killed, or injured. Security for mullah engagements is a vital consideration. The concern is not only for the Army chaplains but for the local clergy with whom they meet. There were instances in Afghanistan in which intimidation, violence, or murder was committed against religious leaders who dialogued with U.S. chaplains. For example, CH (CPT) Guy McBride of the 173rd Combat Support Battalion, who was in Afghanistan from March 2005 through March 2006, recalled, "The mullah engagements in my area were not successful. I remember two of these engagements, after which both times the mullahs were assassinated." (26) Careful consideration must be given as to how much danger local leaders face in relating with U.S. chaplains. Obviously the opportunity for chaplains to interact with indigenous clergy will be restricted or eliminated when the danger is too great. Chaplains must balance their roles as advisors to the commander on local religious issues against operational and force protection concerns.

While Army chaplains typically enjoyed their interaction with indigenous clergy, there were moments of apprehension. Occasionally a chaplain understood that he was very close to becoming an intelligence officer gathering targeting information on the enemy. For example, CH (CPT) Isaac Opara of the 25th Infantry Division conducted four mullah engagements during his June 2004 to April 2005 tour in Afghanistan. He lamented that he did not have set IO guidelines as to what he could and could not report to his commander and staff. While helping with the rebuilding of schools and orphanages, he learned many things about the Afghan people. He stated that he walked "a thin line between hosting mullah engagements and becoming an Intel officer." He stated, "I did not cross the line but I was an ear to the local people to hear complaints ... I never reported info to anyone except my brigade chaplain." (27)


To fully develop the role of the military chaplain as a religious liaison for the commander, more training is needed. It is inaccurate to assume that chaplains with the rank of major or above are competent in religious liaison activities. Military chaplains must be trained at the major level and above to dialogue as religious leaders with indigenous clergy; to be sensitive to the religious culture of allied personnel and the HN; to understand mission and situational awareness Situation awareness or situational awareness [1] (SA) is the mental representation and understanding of objects, events, people, system states, interactions, environmental conditions, and other situation-specific factors affecting human performance in  related to religious issues; to engage in liaison activities with a clear understanding of the Commander's intent and end state; and to not be used in any way as an intelligence gathering or targeting tool for IO.

Chaplains of the rank of major or above are a valuable but underutilized resource in developing the analysis of an adversary's religion and culture for the MDMP. Many IO missions begin before combat operations, and failure to understand the complexities of religion and culture can negatively impact those operations. Commanders and operations staff officers should understand that experienced chaplains can be a valuable multiplier in the total planning process by assisting in developing a religious impact assessment for the commander and staff. Chaplains should insist on the opportunity to participate in the process, although such participation is always bound by their status as non-combatants. Their products are critical for background support to IO, which requires an in-depth understanding of culture for operations involving combat, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, and civil affairs.


(1.) FM 1-05, Religious Support, 2003, 1-5.

(2.) Ibid., p. 1-6.

(3.) Ibid.

(4.) Ibid., 4-40.

(5.) FM 3-13, Information Operations: Doctrine, Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures, 2003, 1-1, 1-2.

(6.) AR 165-1, Chaplain Activities in the United States Army, 2004, 6.

(7.) Ibid.

(8.) FM 1-05, A-1.

(9.) Ibid., 1-5, 1-6.

(10.) Ibid., 1-1.

(11.) Randy Edwards, "Information Operations and the Army Chaplaincy," Command and General Staff College The Command and General Staff College (C&GSC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas is a United States Army facility that functions as a graduate school for U.S. military leaders. It was originally established in 1881 as a school for infantry and cavalry. , unpublished paper, 2003, 3.

(12.) Ibid., p. 5.

(13.) The term "religious/spiritual" refers to the system of beliefs and practices that give meaning and purpose to people's lives, FM 1-05, F-1.

(14.) Greg W. Hill Greg W. Hill is the founder of Neotech Interactive, a company he created in 1989 to serve the expanding market for interactive products. He served as lead designer and producer of the ABC Sports College Football CD-ROM series, which won both a series and single, program CINDY.  and Rob Meyer, "The Role of the Chaplain in Information Operations," The Army Chaplaincy, Summer/Fall 2002, 54-57.

(15.) JP 1-05, Religious Support in Joint Operations, June 2004, II-3a5. See also FM 1-05, 2003, appendix A, A-1 and A-2.

(16.) FM 3-13, 1-53.

(17.) Jonathan Gibbs Jonathan Gibbs may refer to:
  • Jonathan Gibbs (composer), a British composer for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop between 1983 and 1986
  • Jonathan Gibbs (animator), an American animator for DreamWorks Animation
, "Unit Ministry Teams and Information Operations," Unpublished Paper, U.S. Army Chaplain Center & School, 10 March 2007.

(18.) George Adams, "Lessons Learned for Iraq and Afghanistan: Chaplains as Liaisons with Religious Leaders," Peaceworks, (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace The United States Institute of Peace or USIP was established in 1986 by the United States Congress to study the "prevention, management, and peaceful resolution of international conflicts" [1]. , 2006), 1.

(19.) FM 1-05, A-1.

(20.) JP 1-05, II-3.

(21.) FM 1-05, A-2.

(22.) Gibbs, 2.

(23.) Adams, 16.

(24.) Ibid., 17.

(25.) Ibid., 18.

(26.) Questionnaire from CH (CPT) Guy McBride, 07 February 2007.

(27.) Correspondence from CH (CPT) Isaac Opara to CH (LTC) Ken Lawson, 14 February 2007.

Chaplain (LTC) Ken Lauison is currently the Installation Chaplain, Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico Fort Buchanan is a United States Army post located in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. It was established in 1923, and in 1999 became the headquarters for United States Army South (USARSO). . He joined the Army as a private in 1979, and entered the Army Chaplain Corps in. 1989. He holds a PhD In U.S. History and is a 2007 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Air War College.

by Chaplain (Lieutenant Colonel) Kenneth Lawson
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Author:Lawson, Chaplain Kenneth
Publication:Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin
Date:Apr 1, 2009
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