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How do I Become an Army Chaplain?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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If you wish to serve as a spiritual counselor to the soldiers of the United States Army, you may want to become an Army chaplain. There are two categories of Army chaplain service from which you can choose: full-time chaplaincy, in which you commit to three years of active service, and Army Reserve chaplaincy, in which you submit to periodic Army training but continue your normal job until called into service. While the requirements to become an Army chaplain vary slightly between these two categories, you will generally need to be a US citizen and pass security and fitness screenings. You must also meet educational and age requirements, possess at least two years of ministry experience, and demonstrate a character suited to spiritual work. Depending on the type of chaplaincy you have chosen, you will then submit to training before assuming your post.

To become an Army chaplain, you must meet several basic criteria. First, you must be either a US citizen or a permanent resident. It should be noted that only US citizens are eligible for full-time chaplaincy positions. Permanent residents may apply only for Reserve posts.

Generally, you must also be 21 to 42 years of age. Depending on the Army’s current need, chaplains over the age of 42 may occasionally be taken on. No applicant over age 50 will be accepted, however.

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As a chaplaincy applicant, you must also pass a physical examination administered at a military entrance office. Additionally, you must submit to and successfully pass a security screening. These exams ensure that you are physically and ideologically compatible with the demands of the Army.

Before you can become an Army chaplain, you must also satisfy certain educational requirements. You must possess both bachelor’s and graduate-level degrees. Graduate work must be based in a spiritual area, such as theology, and be must have spread over at least 72 credit hours.

In addition to meeting these educational requirements, you must also provide a statement from your religious group. This statement should verify that you are a member of the clergy. In addition, it should confirm that you possess a character suited to Army chaplain work. This includes the ability to function in a high-stress environment, to withstand the separation enforced by deployment, and to show sensitivity to soldiers of all spiritual backgrounds.

If you are applying to become an Army chaplain on a full-time basis, you must have at least two years of prior ministerial experience. Proof of this experience must be provided by your religious group. Note that this qualification does not apply to Army Reserve chaplains.

After being accepted as an Army chaplain candidate, you will then submit to training. If you are going to become a full-time chaplain, you will be required to complete the 12-week Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course (CBOLC). Army Reserve chaplain candidates receive monthly training and are also required to complete a yearly two-week training session.

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