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No Ordinary Warrior: Your Chaplain is a Frontline Resource

Army Chaplain leading a service

Photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal

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.1

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.1 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.2 Chaplains are often also trained in counseling and crisis intervention.1,2

How Your Chaplain Can Help You During Deployment

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.3

As service members experience multiple deployments, issues such as combat-related stress are increasingly likely. A 2007 Mental Health Advisory Team survey revealed that 12 percent of service members exhibit signs of combat stress or depression during their first deployment, 19 percent exhibit signs during their second deployment and 27 percent exhibit signs during their third deployment.4 In these situations, a chaplain can be a valuable counselor and source of information by helping the service member access helpful resources. As deployed chaplains, these individuals have firsthand knowledge of life in a combat zone, enabling them to relate directly to service members’ concerns.

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.3

After Deployment

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.3

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 that explore topics such as:

  • Marriage enrichment
  • Parenting skills
  • Spiritual-leadership training
  • Service member transition from combat operation
  • Anger management
  • Spiritual formation for youth and adults

Contacting Your Chaplain

For many active duty service members, contacting your chaplain is as easy as walking to the nearest chapel in your military community and making an appointment.3 If you don’t live near a military installation, contact the closest one and ask for assistance. Or contact Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647 to locate your unit chaplain.

If you aren’t near an installation, National Guard Family Assistance Centers are available in every state. The Local Community Resource Finder on the National Guard Family Program website will identify your closest center.3

Chaplains are a ready and accessible resource for active duty service members and their families. Their dedication to their service members and their ability to be a confidant and source of information makes the chaplain no ordinary warrior and always a frontline resource for service members.

Additional Resources

Army:

Air Force:

Navy:

Marines Corps:

Sources

1"Army Chaplain Corps: Requirements," U.S. Army. Last accessed Sep. 17, 2012.
2Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course,” U.S. Army. Last accessed Sep. 17, 2012.
3"The Unit Chaplain: Roles and Responsibilities," Military OneSource. Last accessed Jan. 12, 2017.
4“Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08: Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom 8: Afghanistan,” Office of the Surgeon Multi-National Force Iraq and the Office of the Command Surgeon and the Office of the Surgeon General U.S. Army Medical Command. February 2008.

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