So, here I am sitting at Fort Jackson, SC finishing up the Army's Chaplain Basic Officer Leaders Course (or CH-BOLC). It seems somewhat strange to be going through the Army's course when my sights are set on becoming a Navy chaplain.
I arrived out here on 17 July, having sent off my Navy chaplaincy packet a few days earlier. I knew that they had another Navy Chaplain Basic Course (NCBC) starting up in mid-September, but didn't know if they would require me to do the 5-week Officer Development School (ODS) as a prerequisite, or if they would waive it in light of my 16 years of experience as both a Marine Corps and Army officer.
A few weeks after arriving, I met the CO of the Navy's chaplain school, CAPT Langston. He's a chaplain, but was a Marine infantry officer for 7 years prior to putting on the cross. All of the services now have their chaplain schools co-located here at Ft Jackson, so I was able to ask him about ODS and switching over to the Navy. He told me to make an appointment to see him in a few days, and he would have some answers for me.
When I came back a few days later, he informed me that I would have to attend ODS, as only former Navy officers - or those Marine officers who attended the Naval Academy - can get a pass on going through the course. Then he dropped a bombshell by saying that if I wanted, he could get me into the next ODS class (starting in 10 days!) and then back down here for the NCBC class in September! To say that I was surprised would be a vast understatement, but I quickly agreed. I quickly began informing my Army chain of command of my intent, which was met with some good-natured jabs, but mostly with an understanding that this is what the Lord has called me to do.
A couple of days later, as I was following up on this new course of action, I was informed that the Navy had used up all its quotas for active duty chaplains, so there was no way I could be accessioned by the board this fiscal year. So, now I'm basically back to where I was before. My packet is all set to go before the board, but now it will have to wait until October, when the new fiscal year begins. Assuming I'm accepted by them, I'll be commissioned in mid-October, then will have to wait until early January 2011 to go to ODS, and then on to NCBC in February. After I complete NCBC I'll be assigned to a fleet unit - hopefully with a Marine battalion somewhere.
In the meantime, I'm somewhat relieved to not have to jump through a series of hoops in a short period of time, and glad that I can stay here and finish the class with the friends I've made. And, since the armed forces is moving toward ever more joint operations, I'm sure that I'll be seeing some of my classmates down the road at some point. And with two chaplain schools under my belt, I'll be about the best-trained chaplain out there!