Upon separation from the United States Army, many chaplains return to a life of civilian ministry. However, in recent years a growing number have separated from military service with no plans to continue in ministry. Concerned with this trend, Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Thomas Solhjem, the Army Chief of Chaplains, determined that the Chaplain Corps offered no counseling or preparation to assist chaplains transitioning from a military-based ministry environment back into civilian ministry.
In September of 2021, the Office of the Chief of Chaplains contracted retired Chaplain (Colonel) Tommy Vaughn to develop a new strategic initiative called Chaplain for Life. The mission of the Chaplain for Life (CFL) program is to assist chaplains with transition from the United States Army into continued ministry outside the military in conjunction with the Army’s Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP) and the Chief of Chaplains’ strategic guidance and vision.
Chaplain Career Cycle under CFL Program:
Start Strong (Recruitment) – Endorsing agencies work with the Chaplain Corps’ Recruiting Division to identify, recruit, and accession individuals who have experienced a sacred call from God to serve in the military (whether Active Duty, Army Reserve, or Army National Guard).
Serve Strong (Career) – Once accessioned, the Chaplain Corps has responsibility to nurture the sacred call. This occurs through military schools, assignments, religious support education, and a host of other opportunities that build upon a chaplain’s character and ensure required milestones are met for longevity within the Army. Key is ensuring primary motivation remains the sacred call from God rather than pursuit of careerism.
Reintegrate & Remain Strong (Retirement) – The Chaplain for Life program recognizes that as this chapter of your life closes, a new one begins. Whether full time, part time, or voluntary, the Chaplain Corps is committed to helping chaplains explore opportunities to continue their calling. This enhances future recruitment for the Chaplain Corps, expands religious support relationships, partnerships, and influence into communities, and provides ongoing opportunities to faithfully serve God, for life.
- Pre-separation counseling – for chaplains transitioning out of the Army (all COMPOs). This includes retirements, unqualified resignations, REFRAD, UCMJ actions, and transfers to other branches/services.
- Coordination with endorsing agencies – to ensure tracking of chaplains separating from the Army and reconnection of officers to their respective faith groups.
- Future Ministry Database – to identify ministry opportunities and network with partner organizations such as Chaplain Care, Cru Military, National Association of Veteran Affairs Chaplains, Corporate Chaplains of America, Wycliffe Bible Translators, and endorser-specific listings.
- Ministry Assistance Resources – includes transitional coaching to discern next season of life and ministry, soul care, military to civilian transition workshops and retreats, and training as needed (supplement to SFL-TAP resources and classes).
- Army Career Skills Program – assistance with application and participation in Skillbridge/Career Skills Program (internship).
- Leadership and Administrative Support – advises OCCH on Army retirement, networking with internal and external religious agencies, and development of a National Readiness Pool.
Chaplain for Life officially launched for Regular Army chaplains in July 2022. Expansion into the Army National Guard and Army Reserve is projected for 2023. Discussion is currently underway in hopes of developing an Enlisted Soldier and DA Civilian version of the program. For now, questions can be directed to Chaplain Vaughn at 205-394-8011, or email Thomas.firstname.lastname@example.org.