COL Ken Sampson discusses "A Chaplain in Combat"

November 21, 2011  |  PAST EVENTS

On Thursday, November 17, COL (CH) Ken Sampson, Senior Military Fellow at the Institute for National Security Ethics and Leadership at National Defense University, gave a lecture entitled "A Chaplain in Combat: Thoughts and Reflections."

IWP Army Senior Fellow LTC Mike Eastman introduced COL Sampson, and explained that an Army chaplain can really give a fair assessment of what is going on in a particular situation or area.

In his talk, COL Sampson discussed several moral dimensions of American power and how they affect the U.S. national security strategy.  For instance, leadership can truly be a dimension of moral power if our leaders can build trust, understanding, and cooperation with would-be adversaries.  He described some leaders he knew personally who were able to provide this moral dimension through real concern for people.  He advised IWP students to be aware of these ideas as they take leadership roles now and in the future.

COL Sampson also talked about the importance and transformative power of education, sharing an example about one of his students who persevered through school and subsequently was able to serve his country as the chief of an air defense unit.  He noted that education is vital in fortifying our national security strategy. 

Another important ingredient is the concept of hope that America can help offer to others around the world.  He described another chaplain he knew who was assigned to a detainee facility where suspect activity had been taking place between the guards and the detainees.  The chaplain and his assistant set up their office about 15 feet from where the detainees were staying, and right below the interrogation room.  Their presence provided a sense of hope and moral power.  Part of America's security strategy must involve striving to overcome our imperfections. 

COL Sampson also discussed the concept of unity, and explained some ways in which he engaged with the religious leaders in Afghanistan.  By having 11 different mullahs come to a prayer breakfast, where the Bible and the Koran were read, it built a sense of understanding and unity.  This breakfast was so successful that they had many more such meetings.

Similarly, humanitarian outreach can provide a sense of understanding.  COL Sampson described a visit to a medical facility in Afghanistan where a U.S. senior officer and a detainee were a few beds away from each other receiving similar medical care.  He also discussed the work of the Marshall Legacy Institute, which is dedicated to the removal of land mines in countries around the world.

Questions covered topics such as the biggest issues military chaplains face when they are deployed, how a chaplain can work with people of diverse religious views, and the possible perception of U.S. humanitarian aid as a sign of weakness.

This lecture was part of IWP's Distinguished Military Speakers Series.