JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
Chaplain candidates from various denominations converged at Joint Base San Antonio to take part in the annual Total Force Air Force Chaplain Candidate Intensive Internship June 30 to July 6.
“This is an intensive internship,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Stacey Hanson, 94th Airlift Wing chaplain from Dobbin Reserve Air Base, Ga. “Our job is to demine the suitability of these second lieutenants to be appointed as chaplains. We are evaluating their suitability based on character, competency, chemistry and capacity.”
The internship is part of the Chaplain Candidate Program, which focuses on experiencing ministry in the Air Force. It is an opportunity for seminary and other professional religious school students to evaluate their compatibility and potential for commissioning as an Air Force Chaplain.
“This is the premier Chaplain Candidate Program in the Department of Defense” Hanson said. “We have been doing (this) for more than 30 years. It continues to be an excellent program and we get candidates who are vectored and trained for service in all of the major commands, and prepared for (service in) the reserve, guard and active duty. It is a very effective program and a good use of resources.”
To participate in the program, interested individuals must have a bachelor's degree, and be enrolled in an accredited theological seminary or professional school of religion working towards their Masters of Divinity or equivalent. If eligible, the individual can be commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Chaplain Candidate Program. Upon graduation and receiving an endorsement from an approved religious agency, the individual may be appointed as a chaplain.
“This is the future of the Chaplain Corps,” Hanson said. “This is where every chaplain starts in the Air Force.”
The internship is an important aspect of the program and can influence their appointment as a chaplain.
“This gives us an opportunity to bring them in and (do) some preliminary training with them and determine suitability,” Hanson explained. “They also have the chance to determine for themselves their own suitability; whether they can broaden their scope of focus and be a pastor, rabbi, imam, priest to some, but a chaplain to all and be able to do ministry to a pluralistic and diverse environment like the military.”
Most days begin with a unit of instruction, followed by Religious Support Team led unit engagement, and finish with a reflection of the day's events. The cadre will provide the candidates 22 units of instruction designed to reduce the gap between the clergy training they have received at their civilian institutions and their commissioned officer training. The candidates will then be immersed into a squadron to get a feel for how they might engage as an Air Force chaplain. Finally, the candidates and their flight members will have time for honest reflection of all that took place that day.
Following the tour, a small few may be deemed unsuitable for the position and some others may choose not to apply for appointment, Hanson continued.
“This is the Chaplain Corps' opportunity to provide an environment for the candidates to see and experience what it would be like to be a chaplain in the Air Force,” said Chaplain (Capt). Mark Edelstein, 502nd Air Base Wing basic military training chaplain.
The 27 chaplain candidates who took part in the internship toured various 37th Training Wing facilities at JBSA-Lackland, to include an Airmen Training Complex, Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training course, 737th Training Support Squadron and Airmen’s Week. The candidates also met with trainees, BMT graduates and their families.
In addition, they also visited the 802nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog kennels, Airmen Heritage Museum, Security Forces Museum and San Antonio Military Medical Center located at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.
The group attended worship services of various different faith groups and watched a BMT graduation.
Chaplains offer worship services, group and event prayers and counseling for service members and their families both home and abroad. The tour helped showed some of the unique challenges Airmen in different commands and completing different missions faced.
JBSA-Lackland was the second of seven installations to be visited during the 35-day tour after a sojourn in Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. The group will also be visiting, Maxwell AFB, Ala., Robins AFB, Ga., as well as Eglin AFB, Hurlburt Field, and Tyndall AFB, all three installations in Florida.
Those interesting in participating in the Air Force Chaplain Candidate Program may contact the Air Force Reserve Command at (478) 327-1475 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit http://www.afrc.af.mil/About-Us/Chaplain/Chaplain-Candidate/.