If you're already an ordained minister, you can earn your commission within weeks. You'll be ready to begin your ministry to Guard Soldiers as soon as you complete the Chaplain Basic Officer Leader Course (CH-BOLC). Learn more here about your duties, eligibility requirements and training.
Chaplain duties include:
- Overseeing religious ministries, including workshops, counseling, religious education and special events
- Officiating at worship services, funerals, memorials and other military functions
- Providing religious ministry to foreign military personnel and civilians
Chaplain Eligibility Requirements
In addition to general officer eligibility, to qualify as a National Guard Chaplain, you'll need to obtain a federally recognized ecclesiastical endorsement (see below) from your denomination or faith group certifying that you:
- Are less than 40 years of age at time of commissioning, with or without prior service*
- Are qualified spiritually, morally, intellectually and emotionally
- Possess a bachelor's degree (not less than 120 semester hours)
- Possess an accredited master's degree of not less than 72 semester hours (36 semester hours must be in Religion/Theology or related subjects)
- Are sensitive to religious pluralism and able to provide for the free exercise of religion by all military personnel and their Family members
Waivers are considered on a case-by-case basis, depending on the critical need of the applicant's faith group.
*Age waivers may be possible up to 47 in states with a requirement to fill a persistent shortage by contacting the state's Chaplain recruiting representative.
Special Branch Officer General Eligibility Requirements To qualify as an officer, you must:
- Meet the prescribed medical and moral standards for appointment as a commissioned officer
- Be a United States citizen
- Have completed an accredited qualifying degree program
- Be 21 years of age
- Be able to obtain a secret security clearance
Training for Chaplains and Chaplain Candidates When you join the Guard as a Chaplain, you'll be a commissioned officer. If you join prior to your ordination, you will enter as a Chaplain Candidate. In either case, you'll attend the Chaplain Basic Officer Leader Course (CH-BOLC), where you'll learn fundamental military tasks and how to perform religious duties in a military environment. The three-month course can be completed in one block or in several phases over a 24-month period.
CH-BOLC consists of three segments:
Chaplain Initial Military Training: In this four-week resident course, you'll learn core non-combatant skills such as map reading, military customs and courtesies, operations in field conditions and combat survival.
Phase I: In this two-week course, you'll learn Army writing and correspondence.
Phase II and III: Two three-week courses will train you in Army-specific Chaplain duties and applying your civilian skills to the National Guard environment.
What is an ecclesiastical endorsement?
Each denomination or endorsing body that is recognized by the Department of Defense provides endorsement for chaplains. This endorsement (also referred to as "ecclesiastical approval") is one of the most important items for any chaplain or chaplain candidate to secure before you can be considered for service in the chaplaincy.
For chaplains, the ecclesiastical endorsement states that:
- You are an ordained minister or member in good standing of the respective denomination or body.
- You have completed a certain number of years of ministry experience.
- The denomination approves of your serving as a military chaplain.
For chaplain candidates, the ecclesiastical approval is simply a certification** that:
- You are pursuing fulfillment of the requirements for chaplaincy.
- You are recognized as a member in good standing of the denomination or body.
Without approval, you will not be commissioned or appointed to the chaplain candidate program.
**Form DD2088 is for ecclesiastical endorsement.
Requirements vary, but most religious denominations will require that you:
Fill out the required paperwork Provide documentation that you are enrolled in seminary Be currently working toward ordination Meet with your endorser for an interview Please check with your specific denomination's endorsing body for details.
After meeting with your endorser and completing all the denominational requirements for ecclesiastical approval, the endorser will submit the approval to the Chief of Chaplains office. Your recruiter will not submit your packet for the chaplain candidate appointment board without your ecclesiastical approval being on record.
It is also recommended that you request a certified copy for your personal records. Your chaplain recruiter may also request that a copy be submitted directly to them.