Written by Sgt. Ange Desinor
13th Public Affairs Detachment
Paynesville, Liberia – Singing, clapping, praying and the reading of words in a Bible are all commonplace in a church service. That scene hasn’t changed, even in Liberia.
Major Alfred Grondski, chaplain for the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 36th Engineer Brigade, provides religious support to all service members at the National Police Training Academy, in support of Operation United Assistance.
“I minister closely with people I work with,” said Grondski, a Trenton, New Jersey, native. “That usually doesn’t happen back in the states like it is here, because in garrison a lot of the Soldiers go to their home church; there isn’t a home church here. This gives us an opportunity to come together as a Family and worship.”Grondski said his mission in Liberia is to provide spiritual support to the Soldiers while they conduct their missions to build Ebola treatment units. He’s been to several sites, seeing the Soldiers’ hard work for a good cause.
“My son told me that he was proud of me because I’m out here helping people that need help,” said Grondski. “I remind the Soldiers about the mission and the difference we made in Liberia.”
Grondski said a few months ago, there were a high number of cases of Ebola a day and now the number has drop significantly.
Soldiers sometime miss the big picture because of their small roll during the mission.
“No matter how big or how small our job here is, we all have important roles,” said Grondski.
In a deployed environment, it’s not like Soldiers can go home and unwind, he said. Being resilient is one of the key factors in mission readiness and sustainment.
“We give people a sacred place to have some time off from work, in a deployed environment,” said Grondski. “That way, they can decompress and get more time with God.”
Grondski said he walks around, providing words of wisdom to Soldiers, asking how they are doing, observing the environment and supporting the commander.
“Some Soldiers are more comfortable talking to me rather than going directly to their leadership,” said Grondski. “I’m kind of like the eyes and ears of the commander. I just hint to the commander that, hey, maybe you might want to check out the company and see how they’re doing – pretty much gauge morale.”
Grondki said he coordinates with the other chaplains and provide support such as services during the holidays. The Christmas candle-lighting was his favorite.
“Being around him is very enlightening,” said Sheridan, an Angie, Louisiana, native. “You can tell that he’s very authentic. He has real love for what he does and real love for Soldiers.”
Grondski said he’s learned a lot about being in Liberia. Liberians have a lot less than the average American, and the Soldier’s living standards while deployed to the region are still better than how a lot of the Liberians live.
“I see smiles on their faces, lots of places of worship – their spiritual morale is very high,” said Grondski. “They’re resilient and you wouldn’t think that they’re happy but they are. That’s a learning experience for me.”
Grondski said spending time alone with God, eating great meals at the dining facility and talking to Soldiers are the highlights of his day.
With the start of a new year, Grondski said a good thing to do would be a review of your life in 2014 – how you are doing spiritually, how you are doing physically, goals, accomplishments, and self reflections.