Become a Guard Chaplain

Serving as a Guard chaplain is an intense yet profoundly rewarding experience. You will care for the spiritual well-being of Soldiers regardless of their religious backgrounds, ministering to their needs and helping them meet challenges in areas like religion, morals and morale.

Chaplains are noncombatants and do not carry a weapon. As a Guard chaplain, you'll lead a Unit Ministry Team (UMT), which consists of you and a trained chaplain assistant (an enlisted Soldier trained to support chaplains during their missions and everyday activities).

If you're already an ordained minister, you can earn your commission within weeks and begin your ministry to Guard Soldiers as soon as you complete the Chaplain Basic Officer Leader Course (CH-BOLC). If you join prior to your ordination, you'll enter as a chaplain candidate.

Guard chaplains receive excellent pay as well as a number of additional incentives.


  • 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


  • Obtain an ecclesiastical approval from your denomination or faith group
  • Be enrolled in or accepted into an accredited graduate program
  • Be between 21 and 37 years of age* at the time you receive your commission
  • Be a full-time student working toward a graduate degree in theology consisting of 72 or more hours
  • Meet the prescribed medical and moral standards for appointment as a commissioned officer
  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Have completed an accredited qualifying degree program
  • Be able to obtain a Secret security clearance

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.

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 DD 2088 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.


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.

The CH-BOLC consists of three segments:

Chaplain Initial Military Training
A four-week resident course focused on core noncombatant skills such as map reading, military customs and courtesies, operations in field conditions, and combat survival.

Phase I
A two-week course on Army writing and correspondence.

Phases II and III
Two three-week courses on Army-specific chaplain duties and applying civilian skills to the National Guard environment.


  • Up to $80,000 Chaplain Loan Repayment Program (CLRP) to help pay off education loans
  • Montgomery GI Bill
  • Medical and dental care for you and your family (TRICARE Reserve Select)
  • Up to $400,000 in low-cost life insurance
  • Discounted and tax-free grocery and shopping privileges at post exchanges and commissaries
  • Free military air flights based on space availability
  • Free academic testing and counseling for your spouse
  • Access to recreational facilities on military installations
  • A retirement pension plan at the completion of 20 years of part-time service

A higher education takes you a step closer to your higher calling. The National Guard understands this, so we have programs that make college, seminary or divinity school affordable. Check with your officer recruiter or state education services officer (ESO) for current assistance programs.

In addition, the following schools or seminaries currently offer scholarships:

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
$4,500 in tuition assistance
15 tuition scholarships at $4,500
Phone: 800-435-8805

Regent University School of Divinity
$4,500 in tuition assistance
15 partial scholarships
Phone: 800-373-5504

Southwestern Christian University
Loan repayment up to $20,000
$4,500 in tuition assistance
20 scholarships up to $70 additional per credit hour
Phone: 888-418-9272

Oral Roberts University
Loan repayment up to $2,500
$4,500 in tuition assistance
$250 per credit hour
10 tuition scholarships at $2,500
Phone: 918-495-6510

United Theological Seminary
15 scholarships at $3,600 each
Phone: 937-529-2201

Winebrenner Theological Seminary
25 scholarships at $4,500 each
Phone: 800-992-4987

Liberty University
Phone: 434-582-2000

Oklahoma Christian University
Phone: 800-877-5010