PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- The Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola Religious Ministries Department observed the 40th birthday of the Religious Programs Specialist (RP) rating with a ceremony at the Aviation Memorial Chapel Jan. 14 onboard NAS Pensacola.
The brief ceremony, which featured remarks from former U.S. Army Chaplain’s Assistant and Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. (ret.) Peter Mclaughlin and NAS Pensacola Chaplain Cmdr. Bryan Crittendon, included a cake-cutting and reflections from chaplains and RPs concerning the rate’s rich heritage.
“The establishment of the RP rating is the best thing that has ever happened to the Chaplain Corps and to the sea services,” said Capt. (ret.) Fred Zobel. “The support and advisement RPs provide have greatly impacted the function and professionalism of the Chaplain Corps.”
The RP rating, a Navy job designed to assist Navy Chaplains in developing programs to meet the needs of Sailors, Marines and their families, has evolved from a concept in the late 1800s of having a chaplain’s assistant assigned to each ship on which a Navy chaplain served. The U.S. Navy rate was officially established Jan. 15, 1979.
According to NAS Pensacola’s Religious Ministries Department’s RP2 Timothy Martin, RPs support chaplains of all faith and religious activities of a command in addition to maintaining records and religious educational materials. Service members in the rate can serve at a variety of different types of commands including aboard ships, with Fleet Marine Force (FMF) units, with elements of Navy Special Warfare, Seabees, at Naval Hospitals and in assignments with chaplains from other branches of the United States Armed Forces.
Additionally, RPs are sometimes required to provide physical security measures for chaplains in contingency areas, as Geneva Convention strictures prohibit chaplains from carrying a firearm.
The NAS Pensacola Religious Ministries Department, staffed by three chaplains and three Religious Programs Specialists, manages the programs and facilities of the NAS Pensacola Command Religious Program. This includes direct oversight of religious offering funds, rigging of religious services and leading key community relations projects.
According to NAS Pensacola Religious Ministries Department Leading Petty Officer RP1 Robert Porter, one of the most critical roles NAS Pensacola’s Religious Ministries department has is maintaining close ties with Pensacola-area religious groups and charitable organizations.
“The religious ministry team is here to provide support and opportunities to grow to all service members and their families and that often includes working with organizations in the community,” Porter said. “Service members stationed here volunteer their time and efforts through us to a wide range of organizations in the community.”
Porter added that hundreds of students volunteer for a variety of causes through the NAS Pensacola Religious Ministries department. Organizations including the Manna Food Pantry and Waterfront Rescue Mission have historically accepted donations and volunteer efforts from hundreds of students.
NAS Pensacola, referred to as the "Cradle of Naval Aviation," is designed to support operational and training missions of tenant commands, including Naval Aviation Schools Command (NASC), the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training (CNATT), Naval Air Technical Training Center (NATTC), Marine Aviation Training Support Groups (MATSG) 21 and 23 and is the headquarters for Naval Education and Training Command (NETC).
For more news from Naval Air Station Pensacola, visit www.navy.mil/local/naspensacola/.