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NEWS | July 22, 2022

U.S. and ROK Chaplains Join Forces Aboard USS Essex during RIMPAC 2022

Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet

PACIFIC OCEAN -- During the at-sea phases of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, the U.S. and its naval allies and partners embarked into the neighboring Hawaiian waters to commence the force integration training phase of the exercise, also known as the FIT phase.

U.S. Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) returned to sea showcasing a multinational team onboard, including Sailors representing Australia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Israel, Mexico, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore. Amongst the diverse crew were three Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy chaplains.

“This is the first time Essex has embarked ROK Navy chaplains, which makes this a rather unique moment in the ship’s history,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Aaron Roberton, Essex Group chaplain. "Not only are we strengthening international partnerships through this multinational exercise, we are demonstrating that even the chaplains understand and practice interoperability. We have shown that we can execute the religious ministries mission to provide and facilitate for a variety of religious services that fit the needs and beliefs of the ship’s diverse crew.”

With the increase in chaplain support onboard, Essex multiplied its religious services available throughout the week, to include daily Catholic mass, Buddhist and Protestant services. Despite some of these services only being offered in Korean, ROK Navy Catholic Chaplain, Lt. Younggun Ahn, encourages all to attend.

“When people approach me, I invite them with an open heart. I think this kind of attitude is a universally understood language in itself,” Ahn said.

RIMPAC trains and enhances leadership at all levels. It also provides opportunities for partner nations to come together for events like the Rim of the Pacific 2022 International Chaplaincy Symposium, which was held on July 7-8, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

“The diverse religious community of a large, combined fleet needs chaplains from partner nations to work together to ensure that Sailors and Marines from all cultural backgrounds are spiritually ready to complete the mission,” said Fleet Chaplain of Commander, U.S. Third Fleet, Capt. Darren Stennett.

The symposium brought together chaplains from all military services of different countries in an effort to promote international partnership, share best practices, and make important connections to support operations in the Pacific.

“As chaplains, we have an active approach to support all people, regardless of religious belief, not just stand by,” said ROK Navy Buddhist chaplain, Lt. Minsu Wi. “We will study English and use translators when needed. It’s not the language that’s important, but the sincerity of our heart. You can see it from our gestures and our expressions.”

RIMPAC builds true partnerships based on mutual understanding and respect.

“Ships represent their country,” said ROK Protestant Chaplain, Lt. Cmdr. Gu Lee. “The fact that three ROK chaplains have been invited aboard Essex shows that the U.S., regardless of nationality or religion, has allowed us to come here in a joint, combined value of freedom. ROK Navy supports these shared values, and we will continue to demonstrate this.”

Twenty-six nations, 38 ships, three submarines, more than 170 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 29 to Aug. 4 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity while fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships among participants critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2022 is the 28th exercise in the series that began in 1971.
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