Learn the Duties of a U.S. Air Force Chaplain Assistant

These airmen help with counseling and ministry

Army Spc. Anthony Berkowitz gives religious items to a detainee in Camp Delta, Joint Task Force Guantanamo, July 7, 2010. Berkowitz is a chaplain’s assistant responsible for providing a wide variety of religious items, such as prayer rugs, caps and beads.
••• U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth/Public Domain

Chaplain assistants are the right hand of Air Force chaplains, helping to organize and prepare for ministering to airmen in various circumstances. 

Their primary responsibilities fall under the Air Force Chaplain Service's core mission: providing religious observances, pastoral care and spiritual and moral guidance to Air Force personnel. These airmen are non-denominational and are expected to counsel Air Force personnel of any faith. 

The Air Force categorizes this job as Air (AFSC) 5R0X1. 

Responsibilities of Air Force Chaplain Assistants

These airmen coordinate religious observances, including planning and securing necessary resources. This can include everything from preparing the necessary facilities and equipment and coordinating with lay personnel for support. 

They also assess and offer guidance on maintenance of religious facilities, to ensure they meet ecclesiastical and professional ministry requirements. And they supervise protocol and any special programs for visiting ecclesiastical representatives and maintain religious data lists of assigned personnel.

A big part of the role of chaplain assistant involves outreach: making sure fellow airmen know what religious and counseling services are available to them. This includes coordinating with everyone from public relations staff to medical and mortuary affairs personnel, to make sure all processes are handled with sensitivity.

For the most part, these airmen do what their job title suggests: assist the chaplain. This includes helping with religious ceremonies and services as well as helping provide crisis support, suicide intervention, stress management and other counseling services. At times they may respond along with the chaplain to crash sites, hostage situations and other situations, including combat, where the need for pastoral ministry is critical. 

Qualifying as an Air Force Chaplain Assistant

If you're interested in this Air Force job, you should have basic knowledge of religious pluralism, diversity and be familiar with the U.S. military rules for religious accommodation. You'll be trained in the rules of chaplain privileged communications and confidentiality, screening and interviewing techniques and suicide and crisis intervention skills.

When you take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) tests, you'll need to score a 44 in the general (G) or a 35 in the administration (A) Air Force Aptitude Qualification Areas. 

Completion of courses in English composition, accounting, computer operations, world religions, and human behavior is desirable for airmen seeking this role. 

In addition, you can't have any history of emotional instability, personality disorder, or other unresolved mental health problems. You also can't have any record of conviction for any major offenses, or sexual, larceny, theft, or assault-related serious offenses. 

Training as an Air Force Chaplain Assistant

First, you'll take (boot camp) and then participate in Airmen's Week. Then, you'll need to take the chaplain assistant course and the advanced chaplain assistant course as part of your technical training. 

Finally, you'll receive certification by the Wing Chaplain (or equivalent) and noncommissioned officer in charge that you've completed the necessary requirements, including an interview to ensure you're prepared to undertake the duties of this important Air Force job.