Choosing the Service Branch and Component

Which Service Branch?

The AMS does not recommend any branch of the military. Priests are needed in each service branch. Because each branch of service offers a different experience and unique opportunities, it is recommended to contact the recruiter from each service and talk about the mission of that particular service. Priest recruiters may share the names of current and past chaplains who are willing to discuss their experiences. Discussions with chaplain recruiters and current and past chaplains are helpful in aligning the would-be chaplain’s own goals for ministry with the particular military mission.

General information about each service branch chaplain corps can be found here:

Army: http://www.goarmy.com/chaplain.html

Navy: http://www.navy.com/careers/chaplain-support/chaplain.html

The Navy Chaplain Corps provides chaplains for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

Air Force: http://www.airforce.com/chaplain

The Air Force Chaplain Corps provides chaplains for the Air Force and Space Force.

National Guard: http://www.nationalguard.com/chaplain

Because National Guard units serve under the direction of the state’s governor, priests commissioned as National Guard chaplains remain under the direction of the local diocesan bishop. Nevertheless, as National Guard chaplains can be federalized at any time, the endorsement of the Archbishop for the Military Services is required before they can be commissioned.

The following is a list of current military chaplain recruiters, all priests, who would be glad to assist in answering questions or begin the accession process.

Chaplain (CPT) Robbie Deka – Air Force
(210) 565-0335

Chaplain (CPT) Arkadiusz (Arek) Ochalek – Army
(410) 693-6730

Chaplain (LCDR) Dan Fullerton  – Navy
(301) 367 – 3439

Opportunities to Explore

Some of the chaplain corps sponsor no-cost opportunities to explore what Catholic ministry involves in its service branch. Contact the priest-recruiters above to see if a Catholic opportunity is possible.

The Archdiocese for the Military Services sponsors its own event to bring together priests exploring military chaplaincy. The discernment retreat, For God and Country: A Call to Serve Those Who Serve, is held annually in Washington, DC. Designed to assist priests in selecting the service branch appropriate for them, the weeklong, all expenses-paid event includes meetings with the Archbishop for the Military Services, Archdiocesan staff, and priest-recruiters. Visits are made to military Catholic communities in the National Capital Region so that priests can hear first-hand from military personnel the important ministry they would have as military chaplains.

Participation on the For God and Country retreat is limited to ten priests who meet the following requirements:

  • U.S. citizen (Priests with a Green Card may be considered if space is available. Priests with a Visa only are ineligible.)
  • Ordained at least two years
  • Incardinated in a U.S. diocese or religious community
  • Have reasonably good health

Contact the AMS Chancellor to be kept apprised of the opening of registration.

Which Component?

In addition to the service branch, military personnel select a component for their service: active duty, Reserve, or National Guard.  An active-duty chaplain is a full-time member of the military with a 24/7 position. He wears the uniform to work every day and is subject to the needs of the military for his temporary and permanent assignments.

The Reserve component of the military generally meets for training one weekend a month and for a two weeks of active-duty support each year. Reserve units are subject to being called up for active duty and assignments around the world as needed.

The training requirements of the National Guard are similar to the Reserve. The state governor is the Commander-in-Chief. National Guard units can be mobilized by the governor to assist with natural disasters or any other emergency requiring their expertise. Some National Guard units are also temporarily federalized to assist the active-duty military.

Accession Requirements

Each service branch establishes its own age limits and physical requirements to be commissioned as a military chaplain. In general, the age limit is the early forties; and while waivers are possible, each military branch has different reasons for granting them. Physical requirements vary, as do waivers from these standards. The service branch recruiter is the best source for answers to questions about accession requirements.

Regardless of service branch, active-duty chaplains must be U.S. citizens. Dual citizenship is not permitted. Some service branches access priests into the Reserve component who are permanent U.S. residents (Green Card holders).