9 Things You Should Know About Military Chaplains

As military members, chaplains are uniquely positioned to assist soldiers and their families

“Chaplains have the rank of a military commissioned officer and serve the dual roles of religious leader and staff officer, but do not possess the duties or responsibilities of command. Article 24 of the Geneva Convention identifies chaplains as protected personnel in their function and capacity as ministers of religion.”

 

Today is Veterans Day, the official holiday in the United States that honors people who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Here are nine things you should know about an oft-overlooked group of veterans—military chaplains.

1. Chaplains have the rank of a military commissioned officer and serve the dual roles of religious leader and staff officer, but do not possess the duties or responsibilities of command. Article 24 of the Geneva Convention identifies chaplains as protected personnel in their function and capacity as ministers of religion. Service regulations further prohibit chaplains from bearing arms and classify chaplains as noncombatants.

2. U.S. military chaplains represent specific religious organizations and work together within the pluralistic context of the military to ensure freedom of religion. Title 10, United States Code (USC), Sections 3073, 5142, and 8067, provides for the appointment of officers as chaplains in the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The Navy directs its Chaplain Corps to provide chaplains for the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard, and the Merchant Marine.

3. The purpose of chaplaincies, according to the Department of Defense, is to “accommodate religious needs, to provide religious and pastoral care, and to advise commanders on the complexities of religion with regard to its personnel and mission, as appropriate. As military members, chaplains are uniquely positioned to assist Service members, their families, and other authorized personnel with the challenges of military service as advocates of religious, moral, and spiritual well being and resiliency.”

4. The Department of Defense’s requirements to be a chaplain include: the candidate must be endorsed by a qualified religious organization, have two years of religious leadership experience, possess a baccalaureate degree and a post-baccalaureate graduate degree in the field of theological or related studies, and meet physical standards and other requirements to be a commissioned officer.

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