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A chaplain is a religious representative who is attached to a secular institution such as a prison, military unit or hospital. Originally, the world chaplain referred to a representative of the Christian faith, but is now applied to all faiths and philosophical traditions.
The first recorded English military chaplains were priests on board vessels during the 8th century, however, the current form of military chaplain dates back to the First World War.
A military chaplain provides pastoral, emotional and spiritual support to service personnel. They often conduct religious services whilst at sea or on a military base and are nominated or commissioned in different ways in different countries. A military chaplain could be an army-trained soldier with theological training or an ordained person who is nominated to the army by religious authorities. The Ministry of Defence employs chaplains in the UK, but their authority comes from their church.
The Royal Navy chaplains are sent on a 16 week bespoke training course. This includes a short course at Britannia Royal Naval College and specialist fleet time at sea with a more experienced chaplain. Those who are in service with the Royal Marines have a five month training Commando Course and then wear the Commandos’ Green Beret, if successful.
Those chaplains in the British Army undertake a seven week training course at the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre Amport House and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurt. RAF chaplains complete a twelve week Specialist Entrant course at the RAF College Cranwell. They are then sent for an additional two week Chaplains’ Induction Course at the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre Amport House.
In the air force and armies, they carry ranks that are differentiated by crosses or other religious insignia. They are normally given officer status, however, in more recent times the British have required their chaplains to be unarmed.
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