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.