Military Chaplain Candidate Program

Rabbi Josh Sherwin leading seder with Marines in Afghanistan

Purim on Okinawa

picture of service men/women doing kiddush

The military Chaplain Candidate Program in the United States Armed Forces offers paid chaplaincy training programs in different branches of the military. It is an opportunity for rabbinical and cantorial students to train and get firsthand experience in a potential post-graduation career as a military chaplain, either on active duty or in the Reserves-or to gain valuable professional experience that will enhance their rabbinate or cantorate wherever they want to take it.

Information Session
The next information session about opportunities in military chaplaincy for JTS students will be held on October 24, 2013 at 12:15–1:15 p.m. Lunch will be served. RSVP to Rabbi Ute Steyer at utsteyer@jtsa.edu.

About Military Chaplaincy
General Requirements:

Currently enrolled full-time in The Rabbinical School or Cantorial School for ordination / investiture and in good standing
U.S. citizen (unless otherwise noted)
Pass a physical test
Pass a national security background check

Basic Facts:

Chaplain candidates who are seminary students serve as Reserve commissioned officers of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or National Guard
Candidates are commissioned as officers immediately upon joining the Chaplain Candidate Program.
Chaplain candidates are non-deployable (including in cases of national emergencies) until ordination.
Chaplain candidates may chose to leave the Chaplain Candidate Program at any time with no consequences (unless tuition assistance was accepted).
Upon ordination, candidates have the choice to either leave the military or to serve as chaplain either on active duty or in the Reserves.

Training:

The Chaplain Officer Basic Leadership Course (COBLC) consists of three or four phases that can be done in stages or as a continuous course, and students receive basic pay and benefits during that time.
The COBLC is based at the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School in Fort Jackson, South Carolina for all branches of the military, regardless of which branch you have enlisted in.
Additional training takes place on military installations and/or with reserve and National Guard units with full pay and benefits.
For further information, please see also the Military Chaplaincy basic fact sheet (PDF).

Once ordained, all military chaplains who wish to remain commissioned have the choice of going into reserve or active duty. More information about the Military Chaplaincy Scholarship Program or military chaplaincy in general can be obtained from the Jewish Chaplains Council (JWB) or by contacting Rabbi Ute Steyer at utsteyer@jtsa.edu.

Rabbi Josh Sherwin at camp leatherneck

Steve Rein at US Air Force Base

picture of service men/women soldier in Afghanistan at Pesach Seder

The Branches of the U.S. Armed Forces Chaplaincy Corps

Seal of the US Army Chaplain CorpsU.S. Army
All chaplain candidates are commissioned officers assigned to the Army Reserve in the Staff Specialist Corps.

Should you decide to become an Army chaplain, by participating in the Chaplain Candidate Program (CCP) you will have a head start on entering the Army as a chaplain (your time since enrollment in the CCP will count toward your eligibility for other benefits and promotion), as well as enjoying the many benefits and privileges associated with being an Army officer. Besides paid chaplain candidate training courses, the Army offers tuition assistance and matches chaplain candidates with an experienced chaplain for individual mentorship during the year. The age limit to join the CCP is 40 (age waivers can be granted in some cases). Green card holders are eligible to join the Army CCP and may enroll after graduation in the Army Reserve. The age limit for Army Reserve chaplain applicants upon ordination is 42 (although age waivers can be granted in some cases). 

Army National Guard
The Army National Guard in New Jersey is specifically interested in chaplains and chaplain candidates. The requirements are similar to those for the U.S. Army. 

Seal of the US Navy Chaplain CorpsU.S. Navy (also serves the Marines, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine)
Chaplain in the Navy: The Navy has a Chaplain Candidate Program Officer (CCPO) program for seminary students who might be interested in obtaining a commission before completing their graduate studies. The CCPO program offers significant pay advantages once a chaplain enters active duty. The program also includes on-the-job training under the direct supervision of an active-duty chaplain. The age limit for entering into active or reserve duty upon ordination is 39.

US Air Force Chaplain Corps SealU.S. Air Force
The Air Force Chaplain Candidate Program is an exciting opportunity for seminary and other professional religious school students to evaluate their compatibility and potential for commissioning as an Air Force chaplain. The focus is on experiencing ministry in the Air Force during summer tours of active duty. As a chaplain candidate, you will draw upon your background, education and experience to function as part of an Air Force chapel team. Upon entering the program you will be commissioned as a chaplain candidate, second lieutenant. After the initial training is completed, chaplain candidates are eligible for tuition assistance. After ordination, if you decide to stay in the reserve or go into active duty, you will be eligible for reappointment as a chaplain, first lieutenant. The age limit for entering active or reserve duty is 35. 

Additional Resources
The Jewish Chaplains Council (JWB) is a government accredited agency providing for the religious, educational, and morale needs of Jewish military personnel, their families, and patients in Veterans Affairs hospitals.

The Military Chaplains Association (MCA) is a professional support and Veterans Service Organization and is dedicated to the religious freedom and spiritual welfare of our Armed Services members, veterans, their families, and their survivors.

Watch a 10-minute segment of the independent documentary Chaplains Under Fire about the lives and work of military chaplains and the specific challenges that this vocation has.

Read more about JTS alumni serving in the military.

The Department of Pastoral Ministry Training at Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas, offers Combat Medical Ministry / Emergency Medical Ministry, ACPEapproved Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) courses, and a number of post-professional short courses.

CPE training through The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).

Read about Captain Pratima Dharm, U.S. Army in "Launching the First Hindu Military Chaplaincy" in The Huffington Post.

Read "Atheists Seek Chaplain Role in the Military" from The New York Times.

Rabbi Yoni Warren (JTS '11), lieutenant junior grade, Chaplain Corps, U.S. Navy and newly deployed chaplain to Okinawa, Japan writes about his experience at Libi BaMa'arav, Va'Anochi BeSof Mizrach.

Selection of JTS Alumni in Military Chaplaincy*

Rabbi Bill Lebeau 1964Rabbi Bill Lebeau (JTS '64)
Chaplain, lieutenant, United States Navy, retired. Immediate past vice chancellor and immediate past dean of The Rabbinical School

"My years as chaplain in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps at the start of the Vietnam War were foundational to the fulfillment I derived throughout my rabbinate. The enthusiastic responses of the Jewish servicemen and women taught me the joy of helping others discover the beauty of our sacred tradition. I expanded my pastoral skills and enjoyed the interaction I had with chaplains of other faiths. Treasured lifelong friendships begun during those years have been sustained. My years as a chaplain enhanced my personal, religious, and professional life in immeasurable ways."

JTS graduate in uniformRabbi Steve Rein (JTS '09)
Chaplain, Captain, United States Air Force Reserve

"The opportunity to serve as a visible reminder of the Holy while ensuring that Air Force members and their families are able to exercise their constitutional right to freedom of religion is an honor and a privilege. I have complete confidence that the skills I have learned in the Air Force will be an asset to wherever I take my rabbinate."

Rabbi Chaplain Rein combines his work as chaplain in the Air Force Reserve with his full-time job as assistant rabbi at Park Avenue Synagogue in New York and father of two little sons.

JTS student in uniformRabbi Rafi Kaiserblueth (JTS '10)
Chaplain, Lieutenant, United States Navy Reserve

"As a chaplain candidate with the U.S. Navy for the past four years, I had the opportunity to experience a taste of both what the Navy has to offer me and what I, as a rabbi, have to offer the Navy. In one sense, I am an ambassador of yiddishkayt to everyone, not just the Jews, for I am the first Jew (let alone rabbi) that many of them have ever met. Also, I see how overjoyed the Jewish servicemen and women are to have a rabbi come aboard ship or base to officiate Shabbat services, knowing that this might be the only time in their careers they will have that experience. The Navy offers me a wonderful ecumenical setting where I have been blessed with opportunities to work with members of other faiths by learning about and providing for their spiritual needs, and also practice my CPE skills on a nearly continuous basis. Without a doubt, this has been one of the most formative and rewarding experiences in my rabbinical school career and beyond."

Rabbi Chaplain Kaiserblueth works as rabbi in St. Albins, UK while also working as chaplain in Navy Reserve.

Yoni Warren as chaplainRabbi Yoni Warren (JTS '11)
Chaplain, Lieutenant, U.S. Navy

"All rabbinical students are required to do a chaplaincy rotation, in the name of training. Most choose to do theirs in a hospital. I, having grown up in a military family, decided to serve as a chaplain candidate in the Navy Reserves. The training program came with no strings attached, no commitment after school, no requirements really except a summer spent in Officer Development School and Chaplain School. But even so, I always planned to remain in the Reserves even after taking a pulpit. By the time the fifth and last year of rabbinical school rolled around, I had become more excited about the idea of doing a stint of full-time Navy chaplaincy."

Rabbi Chaplain Warren is on active duty currently deployed to Okinawa, Japan.

Rabbi Yonina Creditor (JTS '12, lieutenant, U.S. Navy)
Rabbi Yoni Warren (JTS '11, lieutenant, U.S. Navy)
Rabbi Rafael Kaiserblueth (JTS '10, lieutenant, Chaplain Corps, U.S. Navy Reserve)
Rabbi Ephraim Pelcovits (JTS '10)
Rabbi Steve Rein (JTS '09, first lieutenant, U.S. Air Force Reserve)
Rabbi Josh Sherwin (JTS '09, lieutenant, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps)
Rabbi Harry Pell (JTS '05)
Rabbi Tracy Kaplowitz (JTS '04, captain, Chaplain Corps, U.S. Air Force Reserve)
Rabbi Danielle Kolodny (JTS '04)
Rabbi Rachel Ain (JTS '04)
Rabbi David Bauman (JTS '03, Lieutenant, Chaplain Corps, U.S. Navy Reserve)
Rabbi Sean Gorman (JTS '98, lieutenant commander, U.S. Navy)
Rabbi Gary Davidson (JTS '96, captain, U.S. Air Force)
Rabbi David Greenspoon (JTS '95, lieutenant, U.S. Navy Reserve, retired)
Rabbi Brad Hoffman (JTS '90, commander, U.S. Navy Reserve, U.S. Marine Corps)
Rabbi Barry Baron (JTS '88, colonel, U.S. Army)
Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff (JTS '76, captain, Chaplain Corps, U.S. Navy, retired)
Rabbi William Lebeau (JTS '64, lieutenant, U.S. Navy, retired)

* If you were or currently are a military chaplain, on active or reserve duty and would like to see your name listed, please contact Rabbi Ute Steyer at utsteyer@jtsa.edu with your name, graduation date from JTS, current rank, and branch of the Armed Forces.