Do you remember the scene from the movie Band of Brothers where the chaplain, in the middle of the gunfire, was calmly checking each fallen soldier to see if anyone was still breathing so he perform Catholic Last Rites over them? Military service personnel are familiar with the chaplains — representatives of a religious tradition who serve both the troops and their families, often portrayed as a man with the same combat uniform holding a small bible and a rosary in the middle of the warzone in the movies. In reality, they could be a bit different.

Chaplain in the Military

Although their label “chaplain” referred to the representatives of the Christian faith, it is now not just exclusive to that. Other religions or philosophical traditions like Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, and the likes also apply. In the military, the first appearance of chaplains was in the 8th century, with the English military-oriented chaplains on board proto-naval vessels. In contrast, land-based chaplains were first known during the reign of King Edward I. As for the current form of a military chaplain that we know, they first appeared in the World War I era to keep morale(and morals) up among the troops

The selection process of the chaplains also varies from country to country. They could be army-trained soldiers with theological training, or they could also be nominated and ordained to the army by religious authorities. For instance, in the United Kingdom, the Ministry of Defence employs these chaplains, although their authority comes from the church that sent them. They undergo a bespoke induction and training course for four months, including a short course at Britannia Royal Naval College and specialist fleet time at sea accompanied by a more experienced chaplain.

With that, here are more facts about military chaplains.