The week’s events really started the night before I left for my CARE (Chaplain Accession & Retention Evaluation) Board. I decided (smartly so) to check in online for my 6am flight out of Orlando for my grand tour of the eastern US (read previous post) only to see that my flight had been changed to a 10:40am direct flight to DC. God is good – sometimes in strange ways. I had not even hoped for the change in flights, resigning myself to the airport hell I was about to endure and yet He reached out his hand and blessed where a blessing was not expected.
That aside, I arrived in DC and met a shuttle bus for the hotel the Navy put me up in. To give you some idea the type of place I was staying I ordered room service for lunch, as I hadn’t eaten yet, and the bill was $37 for fish and chip ( granted it was a gourmet version of Long-John Silvers) and a coke. The view from my room was phenomenal: In the center stood the Washington Monument, flanked on one side by the Pentagon, and to its right stood the Air-force Memorial, which I had never seen before let alone knew what it was – thank goodness for Google! You know how you get distinct impressions of people you hear – say on the radio or on the phone – before you actually see them and you picture them looking a certain way and are surprised when they in-fact do not match up to the image in your head? I met Chaplain Brown, who is my regional recruiter and was to be my host for this trip and was surprise to find a man who looked nothing like what I pictured. I’m not often caught off guard. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t in this case.
Getting over my initial surprise and rewiring my brain to accept the fact that this voice came from this man (don’t laugh you know you’ve done it too) I was informed by Chaplain Brown that I was it. I was the only applicant in DC for the CARE board this month. To understand that let me explain that the first Tuesday of the month is the ONLY day the CARE board meets. So for the entire country from Puerto Rico to Alaska I was it. Normally there are between 7 to 10 applicants every month. This time around I was the only one who made it. No pressure though.
The great thing about being the only applicant was the fact that I had Chaplain Brown to myself and really got to pick his brain over various parts of the interview process and chaplaincy in general. Some of my question were serious, earth-shattering, spirit-filled, insightful queries into Chaplain Ministries, others were more along the lines of “What’s a cool place to be stationed?” Here are just a few of the cooler Chaplain Billets that are filled by LTjg-LT. (my rank upon entering)
- Camp David – You are in essence the president’s chaplain.
- The White House – yes, THAT white house.
- Marine Helicopter unit attached to the president – You go where he goes.
After a nice dinner, (I think that was the first time I had ever eaten Chinese food that did not come out of a fast food box, and man I’m hooked) we went back to the hotel and I spent the rest of the night trying not to think about the next day. The room was luxurious – Feather beds, feather pillows, sheet thread counts in the thousands. The type of bed where you oversleep. And dream dreams of bliss, kind of like a mattress commercial.
I tossed and turned all night.
After breakfast we walked down the street to the building where the Board would meet. About half way through our 2 block walk Chaplain Brown told me to stop, as he did this everyone around us also stopped – even the traffic stopped! And that’s when I noticed; across the street there stood a Marine, his actions deliberate and intent upon the flag in his hands. As he unfolded and mounted Old Glory to the flag pole and began to raise it a sound of revelry pierced the momentary silence with a tune most of us know quite well – Revelry and the Raising of the Colors. I watched as Chaplain Brown saluted those stars and strips and was once again in awe of the honor, steeped in tradition, of our military. It sent a chill up my spine. For the raising of the colors – all things wait.
We really are a blessed people.
Since I was technically on pentagon property (at the Naval Annex) security was a fun experience. Chaplain Brown being in the Navy got a visitor’s pass. I, not being in the Navy got a visitor’s pass that required an escort. After a brief walk we arrived in the holding area for applicants, the interview was to be a 0900 which in turn got pushed back to 0930. Hurry Up and wait. In Chaplain Brown’s words, “We had hurried up and gotten there on time, now we wait” – Another great adage is “early is on time and on time is late.” (but only for those of a lower rank – in this case – me). To be fair I was not the only business of the day and the Navy’s world did not revolve around me.
The Board consisted of 8 members. 6 Chaplains, 1 line officer and a Civilian (who I might add was the staple of this board having worked with Chaplain recruiting for the past 36 years)
The questions ranged from theological to personal, from practical to situation. Every portion of my record was explored. Even some of the darker parts of my history, from a few low grades to anything out of the ordinary. They were explored in as much detail as 40 minutes allowed. Now just for point of reference most CARE Boards last 20 minutes, mine again was 40 -the privilege of being the only active duty applicant.
A few question to give you some idea of what’s expected:
Tell me about your philosophy concerning funerals.
What programs have you instituted in a church ministry and where are they today?
How who you council a sailor who has no desire to work and is simply using you to avoid his responsibilities? How would you motivate him?
Who mentored you during a low part in your life?
What are your weaknesses?
How has your schooling/ministry prepared you for Naval Chaplaincy?
There were a few more question but to be fair to the board and to the process some question are only to be understood in the midst of the interview and so I wont show the whole hand. And of course, mileage will vary depending on the chaplains on the board and the applicant.
After the interview we walked back to hotel, checked out, and headed back to the airport. I was able to check in and get a seat on an earlier flight. Which as I realized during take-off made my entire stay in DC less then 24 hours.
Typically the results of the CARE Board take 72 hours. I found out the next day around noon that I had been “Officially Recommended for Active Duty.” With a slight hiccup in my on going battle with MEPS I return to Jacksonville for a follow exam on Tuesday and provide I am Physically Qualified I should receive a final select notice within the week with order of my report date. (Should be August). A few weeks after that (sometime in early June) I will again return to Jacksonville for Commissioning.
As always, my prayer remains, Not I but Christ.
In His Grips,