Sgt. Tara Fajardo Arteaga, 113th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
ŻAGAŃ, Poland – The Chaplain Corps has a long-standing history to be proud of. On July 29, 1775, the Continental Congress authorized chaplains within the Army to serve alongside Soldiers to provide religious support in the military. Since the corps was established, more than 25,000 chaplains have served worldwide. In 1974, the U.S. Army commissioned its first female chaplain. Today, only about 5% of the chaplain corps are women.
U.S. Army Capt. Anna Page is one of that 5% of female chaplains serving in the U.S. Army. She is assigned to the 330th Movement Control Battalion, which is currently stationed in Europe.
“I am only able to be where I am today, serving as a chaplain in our Army, because of the women who have come before me,” said Page. “I strive to honor the legacies of the women who have paved the way in our corps. I feel extremely privileged to stand in this line of women who were called to this profession of ministry to care for all persons within the Army.”
Page commissioned with the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology affiliate while attending Wellesley College. She majored in history and minored in economics, and during her first year of the ROTC program, she was hyper-focused on becoming a military intelligence officer. However, it all changed for her while attending an Army school in Georgia.
“The summer after my sophomore year, I was down at Fort Benning at Airborne School and I was listening to a chaplain preach,” said Page. “He was preaching about not being afraid to let our light shine for others in moments of fear and darkness—and that was when I knew that I was being called to become a chaplain within the Army.”
Page finished her undergraduate degree and was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve as a chaplain candidate while she completed her master’s degree at Duke Divinity School in North Carolina. Once she was ordained a priest with the Episcopal Church, she was able to become an active duty chaplain within the U.S. Army.
“I learned that women can be ordained in religious bodies, and in particular in Christian denominations, which is where I find my spiritual home,” said Page. “There is a place for me of legitimate authority within an institutional church and at the same time the Army has this opportunity for professional religious leaders to serve in this capacity within the Army.”
Since the beginning of the Chaplain Corps, chaplains and religious affairs specialists have performed their ministries in the most religiously diverse organization in the world.v However, the road to becoming a chaplain can be long and complicated. The ROTC program commissions more than 4,200 officers annually across all university programs, but not quite as many chaplains.
“On average it’s only about 8 to 10 cadets a year that are commissioned into the Chaplain Corps nationally,” said Page.
In today’s Army, the Chaplain Corps has more than 2,500 chaplains serving in both active duty and reserve components, representing more than 120 different religious denominations within the corps.
“One of the things I love about the Chaplain Corps is that I have my own religious and spiritual identity and I’m not here to push that identity onto others,” said Page. “Rather I’m here to help Soldiers explore what their religious, spiritual, and emotional identity is for themselves.”
The Army Chaplain Corps builds spiritual readiness by caring for Soldiers and their families across a full spectrum. At the unit level, a chaplain and religious affairs specialist noncommissioned officer form a unit ministry team, or UMT, and are embedded throughout all three components of the Army -- Active, Guard and Reserve.
“As a chaplain, we do two things, we are religious leaders and religious advisors,” said Page. “As religious advisors, we are the advisor to our battalion commanders on all things pertaining to ethics, religion, and morale within the unit. As religious leaders, we perform and provide religious support for our personnel.”
Throughout the U.S. Army’s history, the Chaplain Corps has provided ministry and counseling services to Soldiers wherever they are stationed. As Soldiers still deploy in support of contingency operations worldwide, chaplains and religious affairs specialists mobilize and provide religious support and counseling needed to help them through their deployments.
“Part of the religious support chaplains provide is confidential counseling to anyone within the military, to include family members,” said Page. “When I have the privilege to sit with somebody who is confiding in me, and I can help them feel seen and heard while validating the pain, the joy, the fear, or the anxiety. It is amazing to see the impact of helping somebody feel seen and heard in that space. It’s incredible, it really is.”
Army chaplains have served in more than 270 major wars and combat engagements; as a result, more than 400 chaplains have laid down their lives in battle. Six chaplains received the Medal of Honor.
“Being a chaplain in the Army is a profession within a profession. It is a calling,” said Page. “I want to ensure that I continually shine a light for others especially when they’re at a place where they feel like their world is so dark, and also help people see and honor the humanity in themselves and in others in an organization that often dehumanizes us.”
Page plans to continue serving in the U.S. Army as a chaplain, ensuring she does everything she can to inspire the light within each Soldier she encounters and, as she puts it, “nurture the living, care for the wounded and honor the dead.”