When a minister applies to be a chaplain in the Army, they are asked to submit a statement about why they want to be a chaplain. Going through my old files, I came across the statement that I wrote nearly 20 years ago as I was applying to become an Army chaplain. For me, it still holds true today, perhaps even more so.
In the face of the challenges in our nation today, the Army soldier is asked to do his or her duty to defend the Constitution of the United States with honor, integrity and selfless service while facing dangers on every side. Our young men and women in uniform give up the security of their familiar worshipping community to follow the call of their country to defend freedom.
These soldiers not only need the training that the Army gives them but also a presence that will give them moral and spiritual support as they face the potential risks of military service. While their spiritual leaders back home can give them some support, the Army Chaplain is uniquely qualified and equipped to be there for the soldiers when needed the most.
I feel called of God to represent Him and my Church as part of the Chaplain Corps. I believe that my experiences and education along with the additional training that the Army provides will combine to make me an effective Chaplain, working alongside those of other faith groups to serve our soldiers as they serve their country.
I want to be able to help those who have given up so much to be in uniform, to be a Chaplain who is ‘courageous in spirit and compassionate in service,’ continuing in the great tradition of the Chaplains who have gone before me, serving both God and country as a United States Army Chaplain.
Daryl W. Densford
24 January 2003
In 2001, Chaplain (MG) Gaylord T. Gunhus, then Army Chief of Chaplains, wrote this letter to chaplains and chaplain assistants, about the Chaplain Corps’ birthday on 29 July:
The Chaplain Corps’ Birthday
by Chaplain (MG) G.T. Gunhus, Chief of Chaplains
“We have come a long way since the Continental Congress officially established in 1775 the position of chaplain in the Continental Army. The stipend of $33 per month was established for the chaplains, an amount equal to the pay of a captain.
“During the Revolutionary War the Chaplaincy was a representation of the nation’s religious denominations: 90 Congregationalists, 41 Presbyterians, 20 Anglicans, 11 Baptists, two Lutherans and one Roman Catholic. Since that time, we have ministered to the soldiers and family members of the U.S. Army in war and peace. Our numbers have varied fro a very few in the 1800’s to a high of 8,117 chaplains in World War II.
“It wasn’t until 1914 that chaplains wore the official uniform of an Army officer. The original insignia, a shepherd’s crook, signified the pastoral role of the chaplain. The chaplain’s crook was replaced by a Latin Cross on May 31, 1898. It was authorized for use by all Protestant and Catholic Chaplains. During World War 1, when a large number of Jewish rabbis served in the Army, the Tablets of the Law, with the Star of David, was authorized for them. Those two insignia and the crescent surmounted with a star, the insignia for the Muslim chaplain, are the insignia which identify all of us today.
“Since the beginning of World War II, chaplains have been required to minister in combat unarmed. The signing of the Geneva Convention entitled chaplains to a noncombatant role and protected person status. However, of the 33 chaplains interned by the Japanese in the Philippines, 18 died and many of the survivors were beaten for attempting to invoke the Geneva Convention in an effort to minister to their soldiers. Also, during World War II, 124 chaplains were killed in action, in Korea 13 lost their lives, and 13 were killed in Vietnam.
“Connected to the heritage of the Army Chaplaincy is its history of creative ministry and appropriate pastoral care. The Army is a better institution in which to serve because the Unit Ministry Teams (UMTs) have continually delivered the message of hope and made practical applications to that message. The UMTs’ loan closets and the chaplains’ multifaceted counseling have become institutionalized in what is now known as Army Community Services. When commanders were troubled by problems of racism, rights of individuals, and drug and alcohol abuse, chaplains responded with programs that are now known as Equal Opportunity, Total Army Quality, and the Army Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Program. Today our Chaplain Family Life Centers set the pace for the Army Family Support Activities.
“The Army Chaplaincy is facing new challenges: reduced force, numerous deployments, reduced resources and the impact of those factors on the quality of life for the soldier and family members. As we celebrate the 226th Anniversary of the Army Chaplaincy, may we renew our call to the service of the Lord. May our pastoral care and ministry renew the spirit and soul of our soldiers and family members. May we bring hope and strength to all of those we serve. This is my prayer for you, for all the Army Chaplaincy and the people we serve.
“GOD BLESS YOU AND HAVE A GREAT DAY!”
From a letter to Lutheran chaplains from Chaplain Stake dated 19 August 2001, from the personal chaplain papers of Chaplain Paul Howe (TCK Archives).
The Army Chaplain Corps celebrates its 243rd anniversary on 29 July 2018. Here’s a short video celebrating where they have gone and what they have done:
Happy Anniversary to the United States Army Chaplain Corps!
The U.S. Army Chaplain Corps March was first performed by Bing Crosby on Easter in 1944. While many may be familiar with the chorus, there are also verses to the song you may not know. Enjoy Bing singing Soldiers of God with prints from the Chaplain Corps series’ History of the Chaplaincy and Chaplain Activities.
Army Chaplain School to Celebrate Centennial in July
Army chaplaincy has much to celebrate in 2018 – the 243rd birthday of the Army Chaplain Corps and the 100 year anniversary of the Army Chaplain School.
The saying goes, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” While the veracity of that saying is
up for debate, one thing is true: if a Soldier is in a foxhole, there is an Army chaplain and
religious affairs specialist close by.
On July 20, the Army Chaplaincy will converge on Columbia, South Carolina, to hold the Centennial Celebration of the Army Chaplain School and to recognize the Army Chaplain Corps 243 Years of service.
The event will be held at the University of South Carolina Alumni Center, 900 Senate
Street, Columbia, South Carolina. All are welcome. For ticket information visit
https://www.eventbrite.com/o/united-states-army-chaplain-center-and-school-17341728260. This will be an evening of fun and inspiration as we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Army Chaplain School by “Looking back … launching forward,” said Chap. (Col.) Jeffery D. Hawkins, commandant of the U.S. Army Chaplaincy Center and School.
For 243 Years just as the Army itself, chaplains have served to “bring God to Soldiers and Soldiers to God.”
It was Continental Army Commander, Gen. George Washing- ton who is credited with saying, “We need chaplains.” And on his request to the Continental Congress, chaplains were established as part of the Army on July 25, 1775.
Army chaplains have stood alongside America’s fighting men and women during all of our wars. Some are buried in Arlington National Cemetery and cemeteries across the country. On the campus of the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School at Fort Jackson is a memorial garden with the names of chaplains and religious affairs specialist wars, conflicts and attacks on our homeland.
Eight have been awarded the Medal of Honor: Chap. John Whitehead, Civil War; Chap. Francis B. Hall, Civil War; 1st. Lt. James Hill, Civil War; Chap. Milton L. Haney, Civil War; Calvin P. Titus, Battle of Peking; Chap. (Capt.) Emil J. Kapaun, Korea; Chap. (Maj.) Charles J. Watters, Vietnam; Chap. (Capt.) Angelo J. Liteky, Vietnam.
The Army Chief of Chaplains, Chap. (Maj. Gen.) Paul Hurley has charged Army chaplains to “Live the Call Fiercely” as they go out among units to carry out their duties to nurture the living, care for the wounded and honor the fallen.
The importance of chaplains in the Army was fully realized with the establishment of the Army
The U.S. Army Chaplain School’s first session began March 3, 1918, to orient civilian clergymen to Army life. Originally located at Fort Monroe, Virginia, the five-week course consisted of military law, international law, Army regulations, service customs, hygiene, first aid and horsemanship. Chap. (Maj.) Aldred A. Pruden was appointed as the school’s first commandant. USACHCS re-located to Fort Jackson, South Carolina in 1996.
“Here at USACHCS we are ‘Shaping servant leaders … of unmatched character, competence and
connection … for God and country,’” Hawkins said.
The USACHCS trains chaplains and religious affairs specialists/NCOs to provide religious support to America’s Army and their families while assisting commanders in ensuring the right of free exercise of religion for all Soldiers.
Over 20 courses are offered to the chaplains and the religious affairs specialists/NCOs to
include the Chaplain Officer Basic Leader Course, residence and non-residence Chaplain
Captain Career Course, Brigade Chaplain Course, Advanced Individual Training and the Lieutenant Colonel Course. Functional Courses include the Resource Manager Course and the Fund Clerk Course.
In 2017, 1390 chaplains, chaplain candidates and religious affairs specialists received instruction in a variety of courses. The different components represented are: 477 active duty, 361 National Guard, 551 Reserve and 1 international student.
The religious affairs specialist also helps ensure a Soldier’s spiritual wellness is taken care of.
Religious affairs specialist training began as the Enlisted Assistant Basic Course in
1950 at the Chaplain School then located at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. In 1996, the U.S.
Army Chaplain Center and School, including both officer and enlisted courses, moved to its present home at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Together, the chaplain and religious affairs specialist make up the Unit Ministry Team. The UMT provides religious sup- port and advice to the commander. It is the duty and responsibility of the religious affairs specialist along with their Chap- lain to tend to the spirit of each Soldier. While the chaplain is a non-combatant, the religious affairs specialist is responsible for the security of the team, and is fully trained in Soldier tasks and religious support matters.
Today, there are chaplains and religious affairs specialists serving the Army in active duty, Reserve and National Guard units around the world.
Article data: written by Mel Slater, Army Chaplain Center and School Public Affairs. Article and photos first appeared in the Fort Jackson Leader, 4 July 2018, pgs. 6 & 20. Accessed 5 July 2018.
In 2007, the Army Chaplain Corps ran a series of ads that appeared at least in Army Times, in an effort to encourage people “already ordained or still in seminary” to “consider the call of a truly unique ministry.” I’ve recently come across two of these ads from September and October 2007 issues of Army Times. Have you considered the call?