Military chaplains have long been a source of comfort and inspiration for the men and women of the armed services — perhaps never more so than in times of war. Service members who are deployed experience stress not only from combat, but also from environmental hardships and separation from family and friends. Having a chaplain to confide in can help service members better cope with these pressures.
Potential military chaplains must meet high standards for education and experience. A chaplain must have a graduate degree in theology, at least two years of professional experience, be endorsed as a qualified leader by their denomination and pass a physical exam and security check. In addition, although they are non-combatants, chaplains also undergo military training. For example, instead of Basic Training, Army chaplains attend the Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course, which provides an introduction to the non-combatant common core skills, Army writing and Chaplaincy-specific training.
Chaplains are often also trained in counseling and crisis intervention.
There may also be voluntary positions to assist service members and their family. These positions must be cleared through the base commander or military unit that you are seeking to assist.
How Your Chaplain Can Help You During Deployment
Chaplains understand and experience the challenges that service members may encounter throughout the deployment cycle, making chaplains a valuable resource for support.
Chaplains can be co-located with either deployed or non-deployed service members. When they serve in combat areas, their responsibilities include conducting religious services, counseling on a variety of issues and generally supporting the religious needs of service members. Chaplains serve as sounding boards and mentors, as well as religious leaders, for service members of all ranks. No matter their own specific religious denomination, chaplains minister to military members of all faiths.
As communications with a chaplain are confidential, information exchanged with a chaplain during a counseling session is considered privileged and is therefore protected under law. The Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps all have the same rules about confidentiality: everything is confidential. The legal term is “privileged communication,” which means that it is a service member’s right to decide whether a chaplain can reveal what has been discussed. Without permission, the chaplain must maintain the confidence.
Deployment and reintegration can put unique stressors on service members and their families. Chaplains are there in garrison and in the field to offer counseling to help relieve some of the increases in stress.
Chaplains’ duties primarily include serving the spiritual needs of the service member. In addition, they conduct a variety of related activities. For example, they develop religious education programs, youth activities and conduct seminars and retreats for the moral, spiritual and social development of service members and their families.
As religious leaders of the military, chaplains are responsible for tending to the religious and moral well-being of service members and their families. The chaplain’s responsibilities include everything from performing religious rites and conducting worship services to providing confidential counseling and advising commanders on religious, spiritual and moral matters.
The chaplain teams’ primary obligations are to service members and their family members. These services may include:
Conducting worship and administering sacraments
Performing other religious ceremonies and services
Counseling for service members and their families – While chaplains are not generally licensed counselors, they are prepared to help people with various life challenges — including issues related to work, combat stress, deployment, marriage, family, substance abuse, grief and finances. However, some of them do have professional training in these areas. These type of short term counseling situations fall under the requirement of “pastoral care.”
Conducting visitation with service
Advising commanders on religious and moral matters
Meeting the religious needs of assigned personnel
Assessing the spiritual and moral climate of the command
Planning and programming related to the moral quality of leadership, the care of people, religious education and related funding issues associated with religious programming within the commander’s area of responsibility
Overseeing the planning and maintenance of religious facilities
Publicizing religious program activities
Developing religious education programs and religious youth activities Conducting seminars and retreats – Chaplains conduct seminars and retreats for the religious, moral and social development of service members and their families. Seminar topics may include a wide range of topics such as:
Religious leadership training
Service member transition from combat operation
Religious formation for youth and adults
Accompanying service members into combat
Providing combat stress intervention Marriage enrichment
Service member transition from combat operation
Spiritual formation for youth and adults