Chaplain Candidate Program (from my experience)

Since I started this blog I have had several people ask me about my experiences in the Chaplain Candidate (CHCD) program of the Army National Guard. My goal in this post is to give you an overview of my personal experience with the program thus far. If you are looking for more information, the Guard recruiting site will list the requirements, benefits, etc. of the program here.

I will start at the beginning. From the time of my initial contact with the Chaplain recruiter until I actually commissioned into the program was approximately seven months. I probably could have made it in five or six months, but I had a few paper work items that delayed my packet and made me miss the earlier boards (I had to appear before a commissioning board of superior officers before I could get my commission).

My experience getting into the program was slightly less paperwork heavy than most because I had gone to Officer Candidate School and already had a packet with them that included almost everything needed for the CHCD program. One of the things that can hold you up the longest is getting your security clearance, not because you have something bad in your background, but because the form is very long and detailed and processing it takes awhile. Fortunately, I already had this form.

You also have to get an endorsement from your religious denomination. Since I am Southern Baptist, that was the North American Mission Board. They also had a lengthy application that I had to do, but once I completed that application I was endorsed in a matter of weeks.

In order to get into the CHCD program you have to either be a Sr. in college and accepted to seminary, already be in seminary, or have completed seminary. Most of the CHCD’s that I have encountered are currently in seminary.

As a CHCD I am allowed to drill, get payed, and earn retirement points. In the few short months I have been in the program I have been able to rub shoulders with many experienced CH’s as well as many other soldiers (from privates all the way up to generals). This has been really good for me because CH’s have to know how to interact with soldiers of all ranks.

There is one frustration that I have. As a CHCD I am still viewed as a trainee in the eyes of the Army. In other words, the Army will not allow me to do most of the things CH’s do. This is good, but also frustrating at times. In the Army’s eyes, allowing me to counsel soldiers or advise the commander on religious matters at this stage would be like tossing a civilian into the Army without going through Basic Training. Even though I may have experience in ministry, counseling, and military matters I am not yet a CH. The nice thing is, I know this frustration is temporary. Once I finish my training and schooling I will not be limited to training status in the eyes of the Army.

Perhaps the greatest thing about the CHCD program is the experience it gives you in interacting with people from other denominations. In my CHCD group we have a number of different denominations represented and we are able to come together with the common calling of ministering to soldiers. Being able to fellowship with these CH’s and CHCD’s has been one of the biggest blessings of the program.

That about sums things up as of now. I’m sure that as the months go by I will have more to say about the program and next summer when I go to CHBOLC (Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course) will allow me to tell you about that experience as well. If any of my readers would like to know more about the program just ask and if I can’t answer it, I will find someone who can.

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24 thoughts on “Chaplain Candidate Program (from my experience)

  1. Caleb, thanks for posting this info. I receive lots of questions about the chaplain candidate program, so I know there are many people seeking info.

    One thing I would point out is that USAR chaplain candidates do also earn points toward reserve retirement. Just like USARNG candidates, USAR candidates receive points when they are on active duty for training (ADT) for such things as CHBOLC and practicums, as well as receiving a certain number of points for simply being in the system.

    You might be interested in visiting http://armychaplaincy.com for other information about the chaplain candidate program. This site is a work in progress and I hope to bring on other chaplains and candidates to share their experiences.

    God bless you on the journey to chaplaincy.

  2. Caleb: Interesting blog site! Keep it up…however, I would add a disclaimer somewhere on your page. Something to the effect of “the opinions expressed in this blog are my own.” Check with a National Guard lawyer for a good statement.

    Also, Fr. Sparks is correct when he points out that the Army Reserve (USAR) candidate program also provides retirement points…and pay…and approximately the same amount of duty days as the National Guard – although “drills” are usually done all at one time in the summer rather than monthly. In fact, the only real difference between the two programs is how training duty is done! Both have great mentorship, variety of training, challenging interaction with Soldiers, and great opportunities to explore the Army Chaplaincy.

    Looking forward to hearing of your graduation and transition to the Chaplain Corps someday!

  3. Thank you both for the clarification. Del, as for the disclaimer advice, I will check into it. I had not given it much thought because I hadn’t noticed it on the other CH blogs I have been reading. Perhaps I just missed it. Thanks again for reading and for the comments!

  4. Caleb:

    I too was just commissioned into the CHCD program (April 16, 2007). I have had 4 drills, and loved every one of them. Currently, it looks like I will be attended all 4 aspect of CHBOLC next summer (CIMT, Phases 1-4) since I am graduating the following May, so it looks like you and I may be going to CHBOLC (what a mouthful) together. I would love to keep up with you and what you are doing to get ready (so I may better equip myself). Feel free to email me. Out of curiousity, what made you want to go into active duty rather than stay in the guard (Lord willing)?

    I will be praying for you and your wife (your in it together!).

    In Christ the Sustainer!

    John

  5. John, Caleb,

    I also might see you two at Fort Jackson. I am going into the Program through ROTC as an Ed delay applicant. If you had asked me whether I was going to go Active or Reserve a year ago. Active would have been the only answer. Now I am not sure where God is sending me.
    I will be attending some of the phases next summer. I have eight years enlisted. I hope to go into it humble. I have never been an officer before and there is no other branch that I would want to have other than the Hard core Chaplain corp. (Cheesy, I know).

    I do hope to see the two of you at Jackson. We can perhaps keep in touch and make sure we get together on the evenings or something for coffee or Herbal tea or whatever good chaplains drink these days. I will only be a candidate not a chaplain. In time though.

    God speed to all.

    Raymond

  6. Hello my name is Angel and I was recently accepted into the program as well: December 14, 2007. I appreciate the site and any information available to understand my responsibilites better. Thank you and God bless.

  7. I have applied to seminary and am hoping to enroll in the chaplain candidate program. I had a quick question I was hoping you could answer.

    I have hearing loss in my left ear due to a bout with meningitis as a kid. What are the hearing requirements for chaplaincy and could a medical problem like this be waiverable?

    Thanks for any help!

    John

  8. Hello LT
    I was also recently commissioned as a 2LT in NY Army National Guard a month ago. I completed AIT in Sept 07 and by JAN 08 I was boarded and appointed. Since I just came back from AIT I had most of my paper work handy, and just had to get a new physical- which I passed . I did complete BCT 🙂 I started the paper work at end of Sept/ beginning of Oct missed Dec board. But was lucky to get boarded by 3 LTC’s in JAN. Had my first drill as CC with my unit and eventhought I’m a CC, most of the soldiers call me Chaplain (I tell them with a smile in several years) even my BN CDR call’s me CH (but he knows Im a CC)- Im in seminary (Academy for Jewish Religion)
    Best of luck, this summer Im going to CHOBLC Phase I

  9. Hello All,

    I am prepairing my packet for CC in the NJ Army NG. The postings have been very helpful. This is a major life change for me. Remember me in your prayers!!

    Romans 8:28

    Marlon

  10. Hi All,
    I am looking at the Navy, Army Res, and Army NG. Any thoughts on the different programs? This is a very difficult decision and any experiences would be welcomed.

    Blessings,

    Jason

  11. A couple Q’s

    1. why is my board a paper only board?

    2. if I am accepted, how long does it take to find out?

    Shalom,
    Brandon

  12. I am currenlty on active duty. I am ready to submit my packet but I am currently flagged. Can my packet still go before the review board? If so, can I process for the CCP when the flag is dropped?

    -Mark

  13. Great blog. I am considering the CCP with the TXARNG and was wondering if yall could tell me, how much time I would have to spend away from my family during the training?

    1. This varies from assignment to assignment. Usually, a Reservist or National Guard member will serve one weekend (1-3 days) per month and two weeks (14 days) during the summer. Approach a chaplain (in the Joint Forces Headquarters – JFHQ for TXARNG) asking him/her what are the projected training dates. With the Selected Reserves, there is a caveat: some times the request the CCP to focus on schooling during the year, in the summer they provide opportunities for training (1-3 months.)

  14. Anyone know if ARNG Chaplain Candidates have the opportunity to attend Air Assault or Airborne School like the USAR Candidates do?

    1. Josh, don’t quote me on this, but I believe the answer is yes. For the Guard it would depend on if the state has the money to send you to school. Also, other soldiers will probably get priority for those schools above a Chaplain Candidate. It would be something to talk with the state Chaplain about and he could probably give you a definitive answer for your specific situation.

      1. Josh,

        Speak with your unit Operations (S3) OIC, they should have an answer for you. The S3 conduct training, plans and operational forecasting for the unit based upon budgetary constraints and future missions. Because of the draw down on the budget, expect schooling beyond professional development to be limited to the needs of the Army. If you are still a chaplain candidate, who is not using National Guard Tuition Assistance, you may opt to be assessed into the Chaplain Corps on active duty. If so, during you initial years apply to Airborne School.

  15. I am an active duty Chaplain Assistant looking to start an MDiv. My current enlistment ends late in 2014, so I have a chance to get a few classes out of the way by then. I wonder–would I have to go through Chaplaincy “Basic Training” and get a brand new security clearance to get in the Chaplain Candidate Program? Since I’d be switching from Active Duty to either Guard or Reserve, do I go through the MEPS process all over again? Thanks for any questions you can answer!

    1. I’m not positive. I know I had to go through MEPS again and I’ve been in the Guard the whole time. I will say this, the MEPS process was much quicker than it was when I first enlisted. It was an all day affair the first time and they had me through in a couple of hours the second time. It might have some variance from state to state though. As far as the security clearance goes, you have to renew those every so often so it would probably depend on when you got the last one. Again, don’t take anything I say as official. These are just my experiences.

      Definitely get started on the M.Div ASAP. That thing can be a beast! I hope the process goes smoothly for you!

  16. I am very much interested in the CCPO . I am from Cameroon and was ordained some years back as a pastor .
    When I first came to the USA, I applied to join the navy reserve and I went through the process, did well in the MEPS was put on hold because of my sight that is not very good. I was asked to get a waiver. I am still waiting for the waiver. I did not know about the CCPO program until last week and I will like to join it instead because of my calling.
    Do I have any chance of been considered?

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