LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - In an environment where operations never seem to slow and everyone is on constant alert, soldiers often begin to feel the effects of a sometimes chaotic and always demanding profession.
In combat, there are no weekends or holidays; soldiers are running operations 24/7. For this reason, it is important to have people whom a soldier can talk to at any time and who can be supportive, understanding and ready to listen. At Task Force Corsair, one of these special people is U.S. Army Spc. Annette Daniel.
"Sometimes, soldiers just want to be heard. They want to know that someone wants to listen and understand what they are saying. That's where I come in, I want to hear and understand them," said Daniel.
PHOTO?BY?U.S. ARMY Capt. Katharine Williams, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs
U.S. Army Spc. Annette Daniel of Tiffin (right), a Unit Ministry Team chaplain assistant with Task Force Corsair, takes a moment to catch up with soldiers at Forward Operating Base Shank in Logar Province, Afghanistan. Daniel said
interacting with soldiers is what she enjoys most about her job.
Daniel, a 21-year-old soldier from Tiffin, is a chaplain assistant and part of the Unit Ministry Team with Task Force Corsair. Daniel said she became a chaplain assistant because she wanted to make a difference in the lives of soldiers.
"Daniel is the perfect fit for being a chaplain assistant," said Chaplain (Maj.) Stanton Trotter of LaPalma, Calif., 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade chaplain. "Her genuine, caring personality is exactly what we need and try to teach to all chaplain assistants. We are blessed that it all just comes naturally for her.
"Daniel is a joy to see in action," Trotter said. "She naturally relates to all soldiers and is incredibly proactive as she helps her chaplain care for all of our soldiers."
Daniel has had training in counseling, but explains that soldiers aren't always looking for advice or encouragement, they just want to be heard, and that's where she comes in.
Over the course of her military service as a chaplain assistant, Daniel has helped soldiers work through family issues, co-worker issues and everything in between simply by listening and caring.
"I knew I was where I needed to be, because I was helping," Daniel said.
However, Daniel knew she was truly serving her purpose as a chaplain assistant the day she saw a soldier who seemed to be acting out of character, and she decided to approach him and ask him if he needed to talk. Little did she know she would change the course of this soldier's life.
"He seemed down, just not acting like himself," Daniel said. "I asked him to come and talk with me and he said OK. As soon as we sat down, he started telling me about his plans to commit suicide.
"The (battalion's) chaplain was visiting another base that day so I couldn't ask him for help. I had been trained in this kind of situation, but never experienced it for real," Daniel recalls.
Daniel acted immediately by calming the soldier and then quickly getting help from medical professionals at the aid station. She then boarded a bus with the soldier and escorted him to a chaplain at a nearby base.
Daniel said everyone reacts to stress differently, and reinforces that there might not be a common or easily recognizable symptom of depression exhibited by a soldier who needs help.
"Symptoms can vary from person to person. If you don't have a relationship with that soldier, you may not realize that anything is wrong - that anything is out of the ordinary," she said.
"That's why I emphasize to commanders and soldiers that they must look out for one another. They know each other; this is everyone's responsibility," Daniel said.
While Daniel has enjoyed her service in the U.S. Army, she is looking to other career opportunities as her service obligation comes to an end in 2013. Daniel said she has always been interested in theater and has started looking at different universities' theater arts programs as she transitions back into the civilian world.
"I know this is what I want to do, and I'm so excited to study theater," Daniel said with a smile.
Daniel wants to focus primarily on stage performance, with a dream of someday performing on Broadway.