ARLINGTON, Va. (NNS) -- A Navy carrier strike group's Religious Ministry Team consists of about five chaplains and five religious program specialists to support religious ministry and counseling needs for 7,500 Sailors and Marines during a deployment.
To meet religious ministry demands, Capt. Yolanda Gillen, Navy chaplain and senior detailer for active duty chaplains, has a unique responsibility to ensure the best possible distribution strategies are used to minimize the effect of inevitable gaps and the career needs of more than 800 chaplains.
"We're the only community [in the Navy] that details [provides services] to four different services - Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and the Merchant Marines," said Gillen, who's assigned at Navy Personnel Command, Millington, Tennessee.
Gillen joined the military in 1996 and over time has witnessed the diversity and professional development opportunities in the Navy and the Chaplain Corps.
"Now women can serve in Marine Corps divisions... we have a female Navy chaplain serving with the Navy SEALS... we've come a long way."
After a chaplain raises their right hand and takes the oath of office, the career management process begins. For Navy chaplains, the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center (NCSC) at Fort Jackson, South Carolina is where the first level of professional development begins.
"One of my mentors as I was coming up through the ranks was Melony Goodwin [retired Navy chaplain]. She was instrumental in helping me understand what it's like to be a chaplain. I've had other mentors that have helped me be the captain that I am today," said Gillen.
To advance and grow as a professional Naval chaplain, there are three levels of resident professional development training at different stages in a chaplain's career. The Basic Leadership Course (BLC) is for the new chaplains. Lieutenant Commanders and Lieutenant Commanders select attend the Intermediate Leadership Course (ILC) and the Advanced Leadership Course (ALC) is for Commanders and Commanders select. This is the path to develop Chaplain Corps (CHC) leaders.
"New chaplains are first introduced to the detailing process during the BLC," said Gillen. "At the chaplain basic course the junior detailer provides an overview of the detailing process. In that brief it's explained how the career of a chaplain is managed. Another opportunity is at the intermediate and the advanced course. We reiterate [the detailing process] from a leadership perspective," added Gillen.
The first job opportunity for chaplains may be in the U.S. or overseas, operational or shore duty. "In the first few tours, a Navy chaplain will have a diverse assignment history." said Gillen. If shore duty is the first tour, then the follow-on tour may be an operational assignment with the Navy or Marines and then possibly with the Coast Guard for the third tour," added Gillen.
There are also assignments for Navy chaplains at the Naval Academy, Marine Corps University, Coast Guard Academy, and at the Merchant Marine Academy.
Wherever chaplains are assigned, "the main thing to keep in mind is to bloom where you are planted. The immediate goal is to take care of Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and their families," said Gillen.
Chaplains deliver caring advice to individuals and to all whether they practice a religion or not.
"The Navy has chaplains who are willing to stand alongside military personnel and family members in the sea services during the highs and lows of their life, and for that reason I am honored to be a Navy Chaplain Corps detailer," said Gillen.
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