North State Pastor visits Afghanistan

Sep 23, 2014 7:41 PM by Brian Johnson

A North State pastor is back from a week-long trip to Kuwait and Afghanistan, providing American soldiers an outlet to express themselves and their experiences.

Michael Ciociola is Calvary Christian Center's pastor of 21 years, and Auxiliary Chaplain for Beale Air Force Base.

Intense is the first adjective Yuba City Pastor Michael Ciociola uses to describe the trip he just got back from.
"We had a wonderful opportunity though, to help those who are always in an intense environment," Ciociola said.
He was placed in dangerous environments, but always protected by escorts.

"We're going to do everything in our power to protect you," Ciociola said of his escorts. "If we have to we'll take a bullet for you. And then you begin to understand the greatness of our warriors in America."

Ciociola, his friend and founder of Eagles Summit Ranches for Wounded Warriors, Dave Roever, flew out of Dulles Airport on the eighth, and returned a week ago yesterday.

Everything in between was a whirlwind of intense sessions with service members at a handful of forward operating bases in Afghanistan and Kuwait, including a 9/11 ceremony in Kabul.

The two were helping men and women work their way out of physical and emotional wounds, starting with faith.
"A faith component to a person in the military is as essential to them as a piece of body armor," Ciociola said.

Add a strong family connection and a friend-base that raises that service member up, and Ciociola says you have an indestructible triangle of recovery.

Through group and individual sessions, Pastor Ciociola and Roever were able to help ease the minds of not just those in combat, but military chaplains suffering from what he calls compassion fatigue.

"They're willing and loving to do it, but there's just not enough of them to cover all the bases," Ciociola said.

Ciociola says the work he did was preventative, including addressing suicide prevention.

He says a major component of preventing dangerous behavior back home is managing highs and lows.
Speaking of home, one young soldier told him something revealing.

"[He said] I feel more comfortable here then when I go back home on leave, and I thought well that's kind of a dangerous position to get into," Ciociola said. "We've got to find I think a better way in our military system to either shorten the length of those deployments or put a limit on how many an individual has to serve."

Regardless, Ciociola says the soldiers he met have a desire to finish their mission, whenever that may be and however intense it is.

Ciociola feels the same way about his mission.
"I wish we could have spent more time. As intense as it was, it's just an ongoing progression that's really not going to end if and when the war is concluded in the Middle East.


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