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Focus on Service

Chaplains at Sea

Providing for the spiritual needs of the crew

Flames flicker on clean white candles, Sailors shuffle through rows of pews to get a seat, and F/A-18 Super Hornets slam down on the flight deck ten feet above.

Chaplains, lay leaders and Command Religious Ministries Department (CRMD) Sailors on board aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) provide the place and resources for the spiritual needs of the crew.

Navy chaplains have a specific faith group they follow and represent. Their faith group is identified on their uniforms with a cross, crescent, Star of David on two tablets or other religious symbol. Chaplains provide services for their specific faith group and hold services for Sailors of that group.

The chaplains also facilitate religious support for Sailors of all faiths-whether the Sailor is Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or any other faith.

"We provide for our own, which means since I'm a Christian chaplain, I provide a Christian service, but we also facilitate and ensure all Sailors have an opportunity to practice their own faith," said Lieutenant Cole Yoos, chaplain aboard Ronald Reagan.

As a Protestant-endorsed chaplain, he leads the Protestant services on board. Ronald Reagan also has a Roman Catholic and a Seventh-day Adventist chaplain, and embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, has a Protestant chaplain. These chaplains lead the services of their respective faith groups.

Chaplains support the needs of any faith group, no matter how common or uncommon, as long as there are interested Sailors. If the faith group doesn't have a chaplain present, a Sailor of that faith can volunteer to become a certified lay leader.

According to Yoos, a Sailor interested in becoming a lay leader needs the following:

* Faith group endorsement
* Command chaplain interview
* Lay leader training
* Commanding officer's letter of appointment.

He recommends interested Sailors work with their chaplain.
Chaplain photos

Chaplain photos

Religious program specialists (RPs) are the enlisted support to the chaplains. They work as a team to oversee the command's religious program.

"We make sure you have everything that you'll need for your service," said Religious Program Specialist 3rd Class Kassandra Castaneda.

Ronald Reagan has a library on board similar to a public library. There are two bookshelves lined with new and used paperback books that Sailors can take and keep. The remaining eight bookshelves hold a collection of fiction and non-fiction books, including those on the Navy's professional reading list.

Just outside the library is the ship's theater with four rows of seats and a flat-screen TV. This is where Sailors can watch movies or hook up a game system for video game tournaments.

"There are Sailors in here every single night playing video games with each other. It's actually quite a sight to see," said Castaneda.

Another role of the chaplain on board is talking to Sailors and counseling when they seek it.

"A lot of Sailors, when you talk to them, they think we are mandatory reporters," said Yoos.

When talking to a chaplain in confidence, "Confidentiality is 100-percent absolute, and that is probably the biggest misconception that the chaplains have to go around and educate others about is that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that you tell a chaplain that isn't confidential."

Chaplains offer moral and ethical counseling to all in the chain of command-regardless of rank or position as they make decisions that impact the crew. Anything told to the chaplain, stays with the chaplain.

Sailors of any faith or no faith are able to use the chaplain's services.
NAVY 311 Graphic

NAVY 311 Graphic

Local chaplains can be found by calling the Navy's phone directory service line, Navy311, at 1-855-NAVY-311 (1-855-628-9311) or text to:

For more information visit chaplain confidential chaplain support