NEWS | Sept. 1, 2020

Spiritual Resiliency Trips in the Holy Land

By Story by Capt. Ernest Wang Area Support Group - Jordan

With its historic sites, other-worldly landscapes, and beautiful weather, the Kingdom of Jordan is a popular location for U.S. service members to be stationed overseas.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, however, opportunities for service members to explore Jordan have been limited. Preventing the spread of the virus to protect the force has remained a priority.

As Jordan has demonstrated a phenomenal response to COVID-19, some restrictions have eased. Jordan has maintained one of the lowest number of confirmed cases per capita among all countries in the world through its comprehensive screening and quarantine measures. Now, with the proper safety measures in place, units have been able to arrange controlled day trips to boost morale among their service members.

Among these are Spiritual Resiliency Trips led by U.S. Army Chaplain (Maj.) Adam Kawaguchi and Staff Sgt. William Baker of Area Support Group-Jordan. Their trips bring service members to religious sites described in the Bible and other religious texts.

Throughout time, Jordan has been the location of numerous events of religious significance. The importance of these sites is quickly impressed upon service members once they see them in person, according to Kawaguchi.

“We’ve done five trips so far for 26 Soldiers in the month of August,” said Kawaguchi, who is mobilized in support of ASG-J with the 301st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. “Most of the feedback has been extremely positive. Some people have been profusely grateful after what they say has been a particularly difficult year."

"It’s a great opportunity for Soldiers to learn about the dynamic history of the Middle East and how it impacts the modern world," added Col. Derek Ulehla, the Commander of ASG-J.

In a recent trip, Kawaguchi and Baker led individuals to the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ and Mount Nebo. At the Baptism Site, service members enjoyed an intimate walkthrough with an official tour guide from Jordan’s Baptism Site Commission.

Pilgrims and tourists have visited these sites in unprecedented low numbers during the pandemic. Visiting service members have been fortunate to enjoy the sites in the absence of crowds, and have been happy to help support the local economy of a valued U.S. ally.

“Many of the Jordan sites are very close to original condition,” said Kawaguchi. “We're very impressed that the Kingdom of Jordan has been so proactive in their COVID response to allow us these opportunities.”

Kawaguchi and Baker will continue to lead SRTs through the fall as long as COVID-19 cases in Jordan remain controlled.

The U.S. military is in Jordan to partner with the Jordan Armed Forces to meet common security objectives in the region. Jordan is one of the U.S.’s closest allies in the world.