Awhile back, I posted the reasons why I'm not a Navy chaplain. These were the answers I'd come up with back in 2006 when I first put in my paperwork to resign from the Marine Corps and accept a commission in the Army's chaplain candidate program. Given my past, and the number of years I'd served in the Corps, the reasons were valid, and I believe it was the right decision to make at the time.
Now, after three years of seminary, I've had reason to reassess and reevaluate those same reasons.
You see, according to some friends (both Army chaplains, BTW), the Army is currently at 108% for the Chaplain Corps - so they're overstrength. This is due to a number of reasons I won't get into here, but suffice it to say that they're having to take active measures to reduce their overall number. In the long run, it will mean that promotion to Major (O-4) will be more competitive, and will take longer to get there (8-9 years vs. the current 7-8 year timeframe). Also, they are instituting a new 3-year contract for newly assessed chaplains, which could mean that you get pushed out the door pretty soon after you just got started. And there's also the distinct possibility that I could get all done with school and ordination only to find out that my services aren't needed at the moment, and why don't I apply again next year?
The Navy, on the other hand, appears to be about 70 chaplains short at present, which means that - all things being equal - I would stand a much greater chance of immediately going on active duty after seminary with the Navy vice the Army. And, having spoken with a Navy chaplain (who's also a former Marine) down at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, there wouldn't appear to be much difficulty in spending a lot of my time with the "green" side (Marines), should I choose to do so. And, the optempo for both the Navy/Marine Corps is much different - deployments run 6 or 7 months to the Army's 12. On top of all that, Tamara's family is all here in San Diego, and mine is all on the east coast - where there's an abundance of both Naval Stations and Marine Corps Bases to choose from. Heck, we could spend my entire career just on one side of the country if we wanted!
In light of these new developments, I've started to reexamine my original decision for not pursuing the Navy chaplaincy. And, I've been somewhat surprised to find that most of the reasons I posted not four months ago are no longer valid. Maybe it's the fact that I've been out of the Corps for over three years, and time has allowed me to gain some perspective. Perhaps it's the fact that I've grown in my vocational identity to the point where I would no longer be conflicted about serving with Marines. Or maybe, just maybe, God wanted to test my resolve and see if I was really willing to lay down something dear to me for His sake - only to find in the end that He gives it back to me. Kind of like Abraham being told to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22.
I'm still not sure what I'll do with all this information - for one thing, I'm still on medical orders with the Guard, so I won't have to make an immediate decision. But I do feel a sense of freedom about it all, as though the Lord has put it back into my hands again.
So who knows, I may end up switching services (and uniforms) yet again.
And you know what? I'd be ok with that.