An Interview with Navy ________________________________________________About Navy ChaplainsQ From time to time in war movies we see a chaplain. Is there really a need for chaplains inthe Navy these days?A Yes, the need is very strong, but not just because we have sailors, Marines and coastguardsmen in hostile situations. Perhaps it is because they understand the perils of militaryservice that our men and women often have a unique need to understand their relationship withtheir God and with others, both in times of aggression and in times of peace. Navy chaplainsprovide that all-important counseling.Q The symbol for a chaplain is a Christian cross. Does that mean that Navy chaplains needto be Christian?A Early settlers to America were Christian and early sailors were, too. But this country wasformed largely to protect religious freedom, no matter what the religion. The cross certainly is areligious symbol, and is now regarded by the U.S. military as universal to all faiths. While manyof the 800 members of the Chaplain Corps are Catholic priests or Protestant ministers, we alsohave lots of Jewish rabbis and Muslim imams as well, and more than 100 faiths are represented,so the position is not restricted regarding faith. Most important is the fact that our chaplains aretrained not to convert service people from one faith to another, but rather to enable free practiceof religion, and improve the relationship of the individual with his or her God. Caring for servicemembers and their families, including those subscribing to no particular faith, is a part of theministry.Q What qualifications are there for someone to be a Navy chaplain?A In order to serve, one must have the education background from a qualified institution ofhigher learning, so a baccalaureate degree plus a post-baccalaureate degree of not less than 72semester hours in theology or related studies from a seminary or equivalent is required. Thateducation is coupled with the Navy „s own Chaplain School where interfaith disciplines aretaught along with counseling techniques, and practical application of those techniques in amilitary environment.Q Does that mean that chaplains will serve aboard ships?A To be sure, the Navy Chaplain School will help to prepare chaplains for that kind of dutyand for all other in the sea services, but even the saltiest of Navy sailors only spends a portion ofhis or her time at sea, and the same is true for Marine and Coast Guard personnel. In fact, whilemany serve on ships and around the world, many don‟t have sea duty at all. Nevertheless, theduty can be challenging.
Q Do you say that because of the way chaplains support the Navy‟s military missions?A In part, yes. It‟s true that Navy chaplains need to be prepared to support our deployedsailors at sea and sometimes also Marines and sailors on land in combat roles. These situationscan be difficult for our service people and also their families. But please also recognize thatAmerica‟s Navy is typically the first responder to natural disaster situations ranging fromearthquakes to tsunamis to hurricanes, so our chaplains often see situations and faithenvironments that are rarely seen by civilian religious counselors. Those situations present notonly challenges, but also learning experiences. And they often result in remarkable innovationsin counseling practices and procedures.Q If Navy chaplain service is regarded as an especially important career category for theNavy, does the Navy do anything special to attract chaplains?A Navy offers a variety of incentives, both for those who are already serving a faith missionand for those who are just now enrolled in a seminary or other religious training environment.This is true for both active duty and reserve chaplains. Incentives can range from sign-onbonuses and special-incentive pay to advance education assistance. Of course, the benefits ofserving as a Navy officer come into play as well. One of the greatest incentives we have forseminary students who are willing to serve on active duty is a program that pays the individualwhile going to school.Q How does that work?A In this program, the candidate enlists in the Navy Reserve until after graduation from anapproved graduate religious training program when active duty starts. The active dutycommitment time period will vary depending upon which year of the educational program theenlistment starts. In return, the Navy pays the graduate student sizeable stipend to cover tuitionand most of the student‟s living expenses. Upon graduation, he or she receives a commission,entering as an officer, and begins an exciting career without incurring start-up costs or beingsaddled with student loan pay-back.Q Are there obligations during the Navy Reserve time?A I‟m glad that you brought that up, because in fact there is a requirement. While thestudent remains in the seminary program during the school year, he or she will report to the NavyChaplain School in beautiful Newport, RI, during the summer, for our chaplain training. Upongraduating from the seminary or other religious training facility, the student will return tochaplain school to complete training before being commissioned for active duty.
Q Does the individual need to be certified as a part of this?A Yes, the chaplain or graduated student must have the degree and also hold anecclesiastical endorsement from a religious faith organization registered with the Department ofDefense.Q What rank or status will the chaplain have upon activation?A In school, the chaplain student will retain a rank of ensign. Afterward, the chaplain willbe commissioned as a lieutenant or higher in the Navy Chaplain Corps, depending on whethersome specialty is needed. That way, both status and salary are comparable to that of civilianclergy.Q How does one get started pursuing this opportunity?A Actually, the best first step is to contact the local officer recruiting station to find outabout any and all of the jobs that we have available. To reach us, simply contact our station bycalling ______________, or stop in most afternoons at _____________________________. Ifyou or an out of-town friend want to locate another station near them, visit www.navy.com andclick on “find a recruiter” on the right side of the home page, then enter your zip code number. Acall to 800-4go –Navy will do the trick as well.Additional comment:To put the Navy‟s role in perspective, you need to recognize that 70 percent of the world iscovered by ocean, 80 percent of the world‟s population lives along coasts and 90 percent of theworld‟s commerce travels by water. Protecting all of that is our job, and that makes America‟sNavy a global force for good.Sailors serve on land and from the sea; from ships on the water, submarines under the water, andplanes and helicopters over the water – all to meet America‟s threats far away so that thosethreats cannot harm us here. We welcome the best men and women to join us in accomplishingtoday‟s missions and meeting tomorrow‟s challenges. - 30 -