NAVCENT Religious Ministries Team Impacts 5th Fleet

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adelola Tinubu, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs | September 01, 2022

MANAMA, Bahrain --

The Religious Ministries Team at U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) supports the Bahrain military community and U.S. 5th Fleet mission in ways many may not expect.

“Our mission is diverse and may surprise folks,” said Capt. Maurice Buford, NAVCENT’s lead chaplain. “How we care for one another has a ripple effect and our goal is to ensure we inject care and heart into the mission.”

Comprised of nearly two dozen military and civilian personnel stationed across the Middle East, Buford’s team is strategically positioned to assist service members and their families with personal and professional challenges.

“Sometimes a Sailor just needs to be heard and a chaplain can provide a confidential ear,” said Religious Programs Specialist 1st Class Mauricio Melo. “When needed, we provide referrals to the Fleet and Family Support Center, career counseling office or financial aid office to address specific issues.”

Taking care of Sailors is their primary focus, but the Religious Ministries Team also contributes to the U.S. 5th Fleet mission in other areas. For instance, they regularly organize community service opportunities to strengthen regional relationships.

Over the past year Buford’s team has coordinated more than 40 community service events with 800 volunteers. These efforts included the donation of $13,000 worth of educational, medical and personal care items to organizations that support communities in need.

“I worked alongside other Sailors during a general clean-up at a school and also read to patients with special needs,” said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Darryl Taylor. “The experience was profound. For the first time, I was not only able to step outside of my rate but also step outside of my personal comfort zone to contribute to a good cause.”

In addition to leading community service initiatives, the Religious Ministries Team regularly interacts with counterparts from other nations.

Most recently, Buford’s team met with military officials and civilian medical personnel in Jordan to share best practices on caring for service members dealing with life challenges. The discussions covered trauma care, warrior toughness, spiritual readiness and compassion fatigue.

“It is truly a privilege to care for our own Marines and Sailors, but it’s especially an honor to advise others on a global platform.” said Lt. Cmdr. Benjamin Box, a military chaplain who specializes in counseling individuals coping with moral injuries.

One of the newest initiatives led by the Religious Ministries Team is Treasures of the Nation, a leadership course for service members and civilians that encourages self-reflection, offers practical leadership tools and supports open dialogue in professional settings.

The course specifically encourages Sailors to model principles that reinforce standards of professional excellence. Presenters teach participants signature behaviors the Navy encourages 21st Century Sailors to emulate. At its core, the course emphasizes treating one another with dignity and respect.

“Treasures of the Nation training reminds people that we are all valuable and should be treated as such,” said Information System Technician 1st Class Devon Pace. “I am deeply grateful for this initiative.”

So far, the Religious Ministries Team and five volunteers have facilitated 15 courses with more than 150 participants since October 2021.

“Religious and pastoral care is just one service we proudly provide but we are so much more,” said Buford. “Come volunteer, interact with the community and see first-hand how every service member and family member here is truly a global ambassador while stationed in U.S. 5th Fleet.”