My Time at the Air Force Basic Chaplain Course
As part of my training in the Air National Guard, I had to complete 11 weeks of intense training within two years. The first 5 weeks was Officer Training School. This training was designed to train me as an Officer in the military. It was extremely intense as we marched from place to place and learned what life was like as an Officer in the Air Force. You can read about my experience here.
The second part of my initial training was taking the Basic Chaplain Course. This course trained me on how to be an effective Chaplain in the military. We didn't have to march, and I slept a lot more in the evenings:) In this course I did the following...
- Put together and led a worship service.
- Put together and led a memorial service.
- Wrote papers and took tests.
- Worked with my classmates in counseling groups to improve my counseling skills.
- Became certified in suicide prevention counseling.
- Became certified in a marriage program called The Speed of Trust.
- Gave a briefing on the religion of Hinduism.
- Learned how to minister in this changing culture and in a pluralistic setting.
- And much more...
Overall, this training helped me grow as a Chaplain and as a Minister for my church family.
The military established the Chaplaincy on July 29, 1775 by General George Washington. Washington knew the importance it was for troops to have a Chaplain by their side providing spiritual care for them while they were in the midst of battle and away from their families.
A military chaplain is a duly credentialed, authorized, and accountable member who facilitates the First Amendment rights of other members while providing spiritual care to the entire force and advisement to leaders on religious, moral, ethical and spiritual matters. In other words, my main role as a Chaplain is to provide spiritual care to all and to advise leadership. Chaplains help leaders understand the morale of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, and they also give counsel to Commanders with regards to religious accommodation requests. Because of the 1st Amendment, Chaplains are also able to exercise the freedom of religion so they would not have to peform any religious/non-religious practice that is against their conscience or their faith group.
After my training, I gained a much greater appreciation not only for those who have committed their lives to serving this country, but also a greater appreciation for the Chaplain Corps. The highlight of my 6 weeks was interacting with my classmates from various faith backgrounds. Although we differed in our theology, what united us was serving our country together and being on mission next to each other. We had many thought-provoking conversations, and it not only helped sharpen my beliefs but also gave me a better understanding of their beliefs. The most important components of the Chaplain Corps are: integrity, servant leadership, and vocational excellence. The other 19 Chaplains who served next to me exhibited these qualities, and it was a privilege serving with them.
Another component to the course was our Chaplain Assistants Class. The Air Force Chaplain Corps has a concept called a Religious Support Team (RST). This team is made up of a Chaplain and a Chaplain Assistant. Throughout our 6 weeks, the Chaplains worked with a great group of Chaplain Assistants doing hands on training together. Chaplain Assistants are trained in crisis intervention counseling, and they provide a lot of help and support for the Chaplain Corps. This class of 20 Chaplain Assistants were a sharp group of people who the Chaplains rely on to execute the mission effectively. It was a privilege serving alongside of them.
The Basic Chaplain Course was an experience I'll never forget. I appreciate my wife and my church family for being supportive of me serving the Lord and others in this way. I truly believe we have the strongest military in the world, and trainings like this prove to me that our military is run with excellence.