For help solving a current recruiting crisis, the Navy has turned to religious organizations.

Rear Admiral Gregory N. Todd, chief of Navy chaplains, urged faith groups to help find chaplain candidates in a May 15 column for Religion News Service.

“I am appealing to America’s religious organizations and their leaders to prioritize ministry to the Americans who have chosen to serve our nation. The bulk of our “flock” are 18- to 25-year-olds, often faced with adult challenges for the first time in their lives. We need more chaplains to care for these young people and their families,” he wrote.

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Todd noted that the Navy’s Chaplain Corps, which serves sailors, Marines and the Coast Guard, is in need of more than a few good men (and women) at the moment.

It’s hoping to hire 90 total new chaplains for active duty and the Naval Reserve during this fiscal year. So far, it’s added just 30 recruits.

“In order to care for the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, the Navy needs chaplains, and, despite the Department of the Navy asking for more, the recruiting deficit is extreme,” Todd wrote for Religion News Service.

What do Navy chaplains do?

Navy chaplains, like other faith leaders, are expected to look out for the spiritual well-being of the people they serve, according to the Navy’s brochure on the position.

They lead worship services, oversee programs like youth groups, provide spiritual counseling and protect religious freedom, in part by willingly offering support to sailors of all faiths and no faith at all.

“Together, Navy chaplains enable the free practice of religion for all the Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who serve,” the brochure says.

It notes that the Chaplain Corps includes people from more than 100 different religious traditions. Candidates have to provide proof of “ecclesiastical endorsement” when they apply.

Benefits of chaplaincy

The brochure, like Todd’s column, praises chaplains for the care they provide to their fellow servicemembers.

“The job of a chaplain spans a broad range of duties and a great diversity of backgrounds. It involves seeing people through some of their most joyful moments to their most personally challenging,” the brochure says.

Todd wrote that spiritual care can literally save lives.

“Those engaged in spiritual practices (including religion) are 50%-80% less likely to die by suicide, 60% less likely to suffer depression, 80% less likely to suffer addiction and 70% less likely to participate in risky behaviors,” he wrote.