Military chaplains from the U.S. and 27 NATO Ally and partner nations met in Bucharest, Romania, Feb. 6-10 for the 34th iteration of the International Military Chiefs of Chaplains Conference (IMCCC).
The annual conference serves as an international and interfaith forum for dialogue among military chaplain leadership to enhance partnerships, foster cooperation and bolster mutually supportive working relationships.
One-hundred-eight delegates from 27 countries and representing over 30 religious denominations, attended the four-day conference cohosted by U.S. European Command and the Romanian Ministry of National Defense. The conference was the first in-person gathering since 2020. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the conference was held on a virtual platform the last two years. Several keynote speakers representing the military and academia delivered remarks during the conference, including retired Maj. Gen. Dondi Costin, president of Charleston Southern University.
In the conference program, USEUCOM Deputy Commander U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Steven Basham welcomed participants, stating, “Russia’s attacks have solidified the international community to stand together, give comfort and aid, and exercise those core principles that support a peaceful and stable world. Our forces look to chaplains to provide the spiritual counseling and support that enables them to stand strong and maintain resolve in the face of atrocities and reckless devastation. You ensure our most vital resource, our people, are able to maintain and support their nations, families and selves.”
The first IMCCC was held in February 1990, when the USEUCOM chaplain’s office coordinated a NATO Chiefs of Chaplains Conference in Stuttgart, Germany. Through the years, participation has expanded to include allies and partners outside of NATO and Europe.
“The USEUCOM motto, ‘Stronger Together’ also applies to religious affairs operations,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Chris LaPack, USEUCOM command chaplain. “The IMCCC forum promotes religious freedom and strengthens those relationships required to exchange ideas, inspire creative solutions, and implement interoperability amongst international religious leaders serving our military members and their families in this theater and beyond,” he said. “The end result is our warriors and families receive better pastoral and spiritual care and our commanders receive better advisement on the impact of religion on military operations.”
U.S. European Command is one of two U.S. forward-deployed geographic combatant commands whose area of focus spans across Europe, portions of Asia and the Middle East, the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. The command is composed of approximately 70,000 military and civilian personnel and is responsible for U.S. defense operations and relations with NATO and 51 countries. For more information about U.S. European Command, visit https://www.eucom.mil.