Women in the Navy Chaplain Corps

By Christianne M. Witten, Chief of Navy Chaplains Public Affairs (posted by U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps, March 25, 2014).

LT JG Pohlman

Lt. J.G. Florence Dianna Pohlman, first female chaplain in the DoD to be commissioned, July 2, 1973.

Rear Adm. Margaret G. Kibben

ARLINGTON, Va. (March 4, 2013) Rear Adm. Margaret G. Kibben, left, with Rev. Dianna Pohlman Bell, at the 40th Anniversary Of Women in the Military Chaplaincy ceremony. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Tony Rosa/Released)

“In celebrating the gifts of our heritage, may we also share the stories of the sacrificial ministry all chaplains-counting women equally among them-have provided at sea, in the air, with boots on the ground, in hospitals, training centers, and at home.” -Rear Adm. Margaret G. Kibben, the first woman promoted to rear admiral in the Chaplain Corps and the first woman to serve as deputy chief of Navy chaplains/chaplain of the Marine Corps.

“They’re senior chaplains whose shoulders I stand upon in regards to being a Naval Officer and female chaplain. I have spent countless hours in their presence, learning under their tutelege how to balance being a Pastor and Naval Officer. We are called to do both, and they have helped me understand work/life balance and the art of intentional self-care which I am still learning to put into practice,” said Chaplain Kimberly Cain when reflecting on  her mentors: Chaplain Melody Goodwin, now retired, and Chaplain Brenda Bradley-Davila, pictured below.

“It’s essential that we value the diverse talents of all of our chaplains in order to meet the vast religious needs of our diverse people.” -Chief of Navy Chaplains Rear Adm. Mark L. Tidd.

The expeditionary nature of the maritime mission places Navy chaplains-both women and men- on a broad range of platforms for ministry. From flight decks of aircraft carriers in the Arabian Gulf, to forward operating bases in Afghanistan, to the bridge of Coast Guard Cutters in the Central Pacific-Navy chaplains remain on the frontlines, providing a ministry of presence to our warfighters.

“Everyone comes with so much to offer, yet often they don’t see what’s inside them. As a chaplain, I need to help them fulfill their purpose in life.” -Chaplain Brenda Bradley-Davila.

The Navy Chaplain Corps currently has 57 active-duty female chaplains standing the watch and caring for our people. The path forged by these pioneering women has endured and grown to increase diversity in both the Chaplain Corps and the Naval service.  Below are some historic highlights:


Lieutenant Vivian McFadden comforts a patient at the Regional Naval Medical Center in Oakland, Calif., 1976. In 1974, she became the first female African American Navy chaplain.



Lt.Cmdr. Mary Ellen Washburn, the first female chaplain assigned to a Marine Division, conducts a worship service with Marines from Second Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, circa 1992.



Cmdr. Eileen O’Hickey conducts a burial at sea aboard the USS Emory Land, Aug. 11, 1992. She later becomes the first female chaplain to be promoted to Captain in 1996.



Lt. Judy Malana, the first female chaplain assigned to a guided-missile cruiser, delivers a prayer at sea during Operation Desert Fox in the Persian Gulf in 1998. She was aboard the USS Gettysburg.


Chaplain Lieutenant Commander Charlotte Hunter, US Navy

Lt.Cmdr. Charlotte Hunter became the first female chaplain to serve with HMX-1 circa 1998.


Lt.j.g. Jeanette Gracie Shin

Lt.j.g. Jeanette Gracie Shin signs her oath of office at the Pentagon on July 22, 2004. She is the DoD’s first Buddhist chaplain.


Lt. Jennifer Bowder

U.S. Navy Lt. Jennifer Bowder, a chaplain with Marine Wing Support Squadron 273, conducts a Christmas service for U.S. Marines and Soldiers at Combat Post Heider in Rabiah, Iraq, Dec. 29, 2008. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jason W. Fudge/Released)


Lt. Karen Rector

Lt. Karen Rector performs a memorial service for Marines in Iraq circa 2008.


Lt. j.g. Yonina Creditor

PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 25, 2012) Lt. j.g. Yonina Creditor, from Richmond, Va., a Jewish chaplain embarked aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), leads Sailors in prayer during a Yom Kippur service in the ship’s chapel. George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interest of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William Pittman/Released)


Lt. Cmdr. Kimberly Cain

Lt. Cmdr. Kimberly Cain, a chaplain currently assigned to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center



Capt. Brenda Bradley-Davila, a Navy chaplain currently assigned to NORTHCOM in Colo.


“Lord, we thank you for the wonderful talents,
tremendous courage and extraordinary dedication
of all women who have served in defense of freedom.

For all who have traveled the hard road before us,
who paved the way with incredible conviction and courage…
for all women in uniform of every age and race,
whose gifts and talents in our midst now continue,
for all who dream and inspire us, who walk in our lives
with marches for a better world,
where all men and women can be truly free,
we thank you. Amen.”

(Prayer by Capt. Jane F. Vieira, retired Navy chaplain, for the 40th Anniversary of Women in Military Chaplaincy exhibit)



  1. Christine Milam

    Will there be a 5oth Anniversary of Women Chaplains?


  2. Richard Portante

    I met Rev. v. McFadden Usn when. I was under going training at Bethesda medical center. She in traduced herself to a group of us at the chow hall and asked to join us. She was wonderful to talk to her.

    It’s been 45 yrs plus and I still remember it


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: