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NEWS | June 26, 2024

First Pennsylvania Joint Resilience Team visits Lithuania

By Capt. Jodi Snyder

Chaplains from the Pennsylvania Air and Army National Guard traveled to Lithuania between March and April to collaborate with Lithuanian chaplains on how they can improve support for military members as part of the State Partnership Program.

The partnership between Lithuania and Pennsylvania has existed for more than 30 years, but this event marks the first time the Pennsylvania Joint Resilience Team, consisting of Army and Air National Guard members, connected with Lithuanian chaplains.

“I love to build relationships. Any opportunity to build cross-cultural relationships is exciting to me,” said Chap. (Maj.) Gretchen Hulse, a chaplain with the 171st Air Refueling Wing and part of the joint team that met with the Lithuanian chaplains.

While the SPP is designed to increase cooperation between other nations’ militaries and Army and Air National Guard units, it also provides a valuable learning opportunity.

“It’s great that we were able to learn from someone else while bringing our knowledge, skills and ability to help them prepare,” Hulse said.

The resiliency team typically consists of a chaplain, an equal opportunity officer, suicide prevention representative and mental health provider. Additionally, a sexual assault prevention and response representative or a sexual assault response coordinator may also be a part of the team. This support system is structured differently from those used by the Lithuanian military, which primarily provides support through chaplains, social workers, and psychologists.

“Part of our task was to find out what our counterparts (Lithuanians) do, how they do it and what they need,” Hulse said. “As we build these relationships and prepare for what’s going to happen next in the world, we need to support each other.”

Another part of the collaboration was at the International Scientific Conference of Military Medicine, which included a cross-discipline analysis of how to take care of troops.

“We wanted to look at how we operate as a resiliency team and how we can better support and prepare our troops for comprehensive fitness including increasing resiliency,” Hulse said.
As the Pennsylvania National Guard continues its partnership with Lithuania, more training is conducted that helps strengthen the 30-plus year relationship.

“We need each other. When we are called up to provide military support, our partners know they can trust us,” Hulse said. “Having learned more about Lithuania and their history, I feel honored and privileged to be a part of this support system. We are stronger together.”