You might be pleasantly surprised by what U.S. Army Chaplaincy entails — and the multiple paths available to make it a reality
Church Executive talks with CH (MAJ) Walter McCall — Senior Chaplain, U.S. Army Chaplain Recruiting South-Central Station — to walk us through the options, the requirements, the expectations, and even some misconceptions.
Church Executive: Overall, what are the biggest needs related to U.S. Army Chaplaincy Recruiting right now?
CH (MAJ) WALTER McCALL: We have a true need for Catholic priests. There’s a push for also female chaplains. Both are currently very underrepresented.
Sometimes that’s because of denominational beliefs, but some groups do ordain females, so we’re actively seeking them.
We actually have a Catholic priest on staff here in our South Central Station: Father Mikolaj Scibior, and North East Station has Father Peter Pomposello both experienced Army Chaplains. The Roman Catholic Church only allows a Roman Catholic priest to recruit for Army Roman Catholic Chaplains. So, none of us on staff outside of our Catholic Priests can call up a Catholic church and say, ‘Hey, who wants to join the Army?’ [laughs]
CE: Some readers of this Q&A might already be serving as institutional chaplains. What can they expect from a transition to military chaplaincy?
CH (MAJ) McCall: The transition experience is based on whether you’re going Active-Duty or Army Reserve Chaplaincy.
If you’re going Active-Duty, I’ve always correlated the transition to looking at yourself as a missionary. You’re getting ready to go into a new culture, learn a new
language — military speech — and within the Army, there are subcultures in different units that Army Chaplains have to learn in order to effectively conduct ministry.
Chaplains are responsible for providing religious support in a pluralistic environment. If you’re a civilian institutional chaplain, you already have the experience of
ministering in a pluralistic environment, being that you provide care in hospitals and prisons for those of your faith, as well as for those who aren’t o f your faith, or
for those who don’t profess any faith at all.
CHAPLAINCY PATH #1: Full-Time Active-Duty U.S. Army Chaplaincy
CE: For someone considering full-time Active-Duty Chaplaincy in the U.S. Army, you’ve provided an excellent job description here and above. As we look at these expectations, what criteria would you call out as essential?
CH (MAJ) McCall: The key piece is this: there needs to be a sense of calling. This absolutely must be something you feel led to.
It doesn’t matter if you’re going to do Active or Reserve Chaplaincy; no matter what, if you’re doing this ministry — be it part-time or full-time — it takes time to
develop the relationships with the Soldiers and with your Command team.
I came ‘off the street,’ as we say in the Army. I was a youth pastor at the time. I began to sense the calling when I put my resume out on monster.com back in
2006. I received a response — ‘Hey, would you consider being a Navy chaplain?’ I’d never heard of military chaplaincy at that time, and it resonated. I prayed about
it. And eventually, over time, it resonated with my spouse — which is critical for anyone considering chaplaincy in any capacity within the U.S. Army.
The second criteria is education. It’s a Department of Defense requirement, specific to Army, Navy and Air Force chaplaincy; to pursue this role, you need a 72
credit hours master’s-level theological degree in your religion.
MORE TO COME!
Keep an eye out for CH (MAJ) McCall’s insights on two other U.S. Army Chaplaincy options in future editions of Church Executive:
CHAPLAINCY PATH #2: Part-Time U.S. Army Reserve Chaplaincy
CHAPLAINCY PATH#3: U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain Candidate
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CE: The requirements for full-time active-duty chaplaincy state that the candidate must be a U.S. citizen, either by birth or by naturalization. Can you expand on that?
CH (MAJ) McCall: Yes; you can apply if you’re a U.S. green card holder for Army Reserve Chaplaincy or the Chaplain Candidate Program. Active-Duty Chaplaincy requires the individual is a U.S. citizen native-born or naturalized. A naturalized citizen, it means you immigrated from another country and became a U.S. citizen.
Those who are actively seeking to live in the United States legally can apply for a U.S. green card.
Those who are actively seeking to live in the United States legally — and legally work here, as well — can apply for a U.S. green card. In fact, we see this a lot among of our Catholic priests, because many of them are from other countries. They have the education; they have the sense of calling to do this; they’re motivated to serve the United States Army. As such, we can search worldwide.
CE: Are there any misconceptions surrounding who can become a full-time Active-Duty Chaplain?
CH (MAJ) McCall: The No. 1 misconception I receive from those interested in Army Chaplaincy is ‘Will I have to go to basic training?’. I get this question all the
The reality is Chaplains commission as an Officer. Chaplains entry into the Army is the Chaplains Basic Officer Leadership Course (CH-BOLC) at Fort Jackson (in
Columbia, SC), not basic training. This training is specifically for new Army Chaplains and Chaplain Candidates.
The physical rigor isn’t the same as with basic training; it is classroom-based with early morning physical training. At CH-BOLC Chaplains and Candidates learn the
duties of a staff officer and how to provide religious support within the context of an Army unit. Yes, you’re learning some Soldier skills along the way, but that’s
not the only emphasis. Whereas, with basic training, your focus is on transitioning from a Civilian to a Soldier.
The second biggest misconception is the age requirement. People don’t know the truth (and are shocked when I tell them), because I always get the response, ‘I’m
too old’ when I’m reaching out to people through direct messages on Linked In, ZipRecruiter, telephone calls and emails. In these various situations, I’ll ask how old
they are, and they occasionally say, ‘Oh, l’m 40.’ They are typically amazed when I tell them application as an Active-Duty Chaplain is up to age 42, and application as an Army Reserve Chaplain is up to age 46, and the Reserve will entertain age waivers beyond age 46 on a case-by-case basis based on ministry experience.
— Reporting by RaeAnn Slaybaugh
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
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, Orange, New Jersey (1999-2011), Club Advisor Fellowship of Christian Athletes East Orange High School New Jersey (2004-2022), and Prison Chaplain at Essex County Youth Detention Center Newark, NJ (2000-2003). He has earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education and Religious Studies from Manhattan College, Bronx, NY, a Master’s in Education from Marygrove College Detroit, Mich., and a Master of Divinity in Urban Ministries from Alliance Theological Seminary Manhattan, NY.
Chaplain McCall currently serves as the Officer-In-Charge U.S. Army Chaplain Recruiting South-Central Station, 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 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 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 Military 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 29 years. They have three children, Isaiah McCall 26, Ariella McCall 25, and Isabella McCall, 15 years old.