Church Executive talks with CH (MAJ) Walter McCall — Senior Chaplain, U.S. Army Chaplain Recruiting South-Central Station — about who’s right for this role, what is means to commission as an Officer from the get-go, citizenship requirements for Reserve chaplaincy, and even the possibility of age waivers based on ministry experience.
CE: Let’s start with the basics. Who might be a good fit for U.S. Army Reserve chaplaincy?
CH (MAJ) McCall: Across the board, the U.S. Army Reserve is for those individuals who want to remain in a civilian capacity but also to serve in the Army. For the Reserve Chaplaincy role specifically, these are ministers who — like me at one time — are in pastoral roles, who enjoy serving their local churches, yet still feel the call to do Army ministry. It’s the perfect fit for people who want to serve in two capacities, or those who are already institutional chaplains in hospitals, in the VA system, in the workplace, prisons, and so on.
By regulation, anyone in the Reserve serves in an Army Reserve center closest to their home of record. That was conducive when I was an associate pastor. As the chaplain for my soldiers coming to my one-weekend-per-month worship service, I questioned them: ‘Where are you going to church?’ For many, I was their only pastor, so I invited them to the church where I was the associate pastor.
My mentor was the same way. He told his home church, ‘This gets me out these four walls and makes me a missionary to our community.’
After all, the soldiers in your Reserve center are also part-time — they’re your local police officers, your schoolteachers, your college students, your restaurant workers. They have the same desire as you: to continue in those careers and also to serve their country one weekend per month in the Reserve.
In effect, serving as a Reserve Chaplain expands your ministry footprint in your community.
CE: According to the job description for Reserve chaplaincy, commissioning into the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps as an Officer is required for this position. Can you talk a little more about that?
CH (MAJ) McCall: Absolutely. A Reserve chaplain is a direct commission; this simply means that if you apply through one of the chaplain recruiting stations, we assist with your application process — your application goes before a prescheduled chaplain selection board. If you’re selected to serve as a chaplain, you swear in with the rank of an Officer.
It’s a little bit different process than for most other Army officers in terms of the regulations regarding fraternization. By Army regulation — number 165-1, Army Chaplain Core Activities — the chaplain’s rank refers only to their pay grade; chaplains do not have command authority. Hypothetically, even if a chaplain is promoted all the way to Colonel, he or she won’t be a commander of a unit.
This is important because, as chaplains — and especially as we’re wearing our religious identifier, which is right above our nametags — it means we can sit down and talk to soldiers at the Private level and then go have a conversation with a General or Colonel. In fact, our commanders expect that; they want to know how the decisions they’re making impact unit morale, even if you don’t share specifics of what was discussed with lower-ranking soldiers.
ABOUT OUR ESTEEMED EXPERT
CH (MAJ) Walter McCall is from Hackensack, NJ, born 23 September 1970. He is ordained by House of Restoration Ministries Staten Island, NY, and endorsed by The Coalition of Spirit Filled Churches. He served as Associate Pastor for House of Restoration New York City (2014-2019), Youth Pastor at Beth-El Love Christian Center in Orange, New Jersey (1999-2011), Club Advisor Fellowship of Christian Athletes at East Orange High School in New Jersey (2004-2022), and Prison Chaplain at Essex County Youth Detention Center in Newark, NJ (2000-2003). He has earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education and Religious Studies from Manhattan College in Bronx, NY; a Master’s in Education from Marygrove College in Detroit; and a Master of Divinity in Urban Ministries from Alliance Theological Seminary in Manhattan, NY.
Chaplain McCall currently serves as the Officer-In-Charge at U.S. Army Chaplain Recruiting South-Central Station in Grand Prairie, TX, recruiting all states from Iowa to Texas. He previously served as Brigade Chaplain at 3rd Brigade 98th Training Division providing religious support to Drill Sergeant Detachments from Maine to Maryland, and Cadet Summer Training Fort Knox since August 2019. He commissioned in 2008 as a Chaplain Candidate and became a Chaplain in 2014. As a Second Lieutenant, he served as a Chaplain Candidate from 2008-2010 for the 77th Sustainment Brigade. As a First Lieutenant from 2010-2014, he continued to serve as a Chaplain Candidate for the 99th Readiness Division Strong Bonds Team, and West Point Gospel Service at the United States Military Academy. Upon his promotion to the rank of Captain and becoming a Chaplain in 2014, he served as the 462nd Movement Control Battalion Chaplain in Trenton, NJ. He deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve with the 113th Chaplain Detachment 2014-2015. He was assigned as the Theater Gateway Chaplain for 1st Theater Sustainment Command Camp on Arifjan, Kuwait for five months pastoring the Pentecostal Service, and Erbil, Iraq for four months serving as FOB Danger Chaplain to 1st Infantry Division, 82nd Airborne 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Air Force Pararescue, and Coalition Forces. Chaplain McCall served as Battalion Chaplain for the 436th Movement Control Battalion Staten Island, NY 2015-2019. He deployed with the 436th in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait in 2017-2018 providing religious support to Movement Control Teams in Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan and Syria while Co-Pastoring the Contemporary Worship Service at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait and Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center, Iraq.
Chaplain McCall’s Army education includes Chaplains Basic Officer Leadership Course (2010); U.S. Army Soldier Leader Risk Reduction (2016); Dover AFB Family Support Chaplain Training (2019); Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (2020); Army Reserve Chaplain Corps Battle Focused Training (2020); Chaplains Captains Career Course (2020); Intermediate Level Education Phase 1, Phase 2 (Present).
His awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal bronze oak leaf, Army Achievement Medal one silver oak leaf, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal three bronze oak leaf clusters, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal Mobilization and Hourglass device, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary, Army Overseas Service Ribbon, and Army Service Ribbon.
Chaplain McCall has been married to Jacquelyn Adorno-McCall for 29 years. They have three children: Isaiah McCall, 26; Ariella McCall, 25; and Isabella McCall, 15.
CE: It looks like Reserve chaplaincy requires that a candidate be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. So, this path is open to Green Card holders, then?
CH (MAJ) McCall: Correct, but only for Reserve chaplaincy, not active-duty chaplains. Active-duty chaplaincy requires you to be a U.S. citizen or a U.S. naturalized citizen, one or the other.
Many chaplains have used this pathway. They started in the Reserve with a green card. Over time, they received their U.S. citizenship and then applied for and went on to active duty.
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CH (MAJ) McCall: Well, the requirement to become a chaplain in the Reserve is a bachelor’s degree in any discipline (not necessarily religious) and also a 72-credit theological degree. Once a candidate possesses both, they don’t need to have ministry experience. So immediately upon graduation from a seminary — if you’re not serving in a ministerial capacity — you could go ahead and apply for Reserve chaplaincy.
When individuals do have ministry experience, however, it plays a key role in applying for an age waiver. In this respect, the more ministry experience you have, the better. If a candidate has two or more years of pastoral ministry under his or her belt, that means they’re coming in experienced. This experience could be at any level — youth pastor, associate pastor, senior pastor, and so on. It makes it easier to apply for an age waiver with the Chief of Chaplain’s office.
For people with significant ministry experience (eight years or more), we see an even higher rate of approval for age waivers for those applying for the Reserve.
Beyond this, for an age waiver to be issued, Reserve chaplains are required to get an ecclesiastical endorsement by a Department of Defense-approved endorser. It essentially says, ‘Yes, we will endorse this individual for Army Reserve chaplaincy with an age waiver.’
— Reporting by RaeAnn Slaybaugh
Keep an eye out for our May 2024 issue of Church Executive, when CH (MAJ) Walter McCall talks about a third path to Army chaplaincy: as a U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain Candidate.
For more information on becoming a U.S. Army Chaplain:
Visit their Facebook page
Download the app: U.S. Army Chaplain Careers
Call your nearest recruiting station:
South Central CH Recruiting Station (Grand Prairie, TX) — (817) 394-0028
West CH Recruiting Station (Los Angeles, CA) — (818) 401-2794
Northeast CH Recruiting Station (Columbia, MD) — (443) 535-4761
Southeast CH Recruiting Station (Morrow, GA) — (470) 713-3448
North Central CH Recruiting Station (Northbrook, IL) — (847) 400-1176