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Tactical Chaplain Ain’t Got Time For That

We’ve recently posted a few articles about companies being approached by bloggers and service members alike for “test items.” Naturally, this opened up the flood gates of anecdotes from various friends detailing the different approaches they’ve received.

We’ve heard a lot of great ones but none so far beat the “Tactical Chaplain.” Since this guy is supposedly a Chaplain, we’ll leave his name out of it, but his story is something that must be shared.

Apparently, a rather prominent tactical manufacturer received a T&E request from an owner of an e-mail address that indicated he was assigned to the United States Army Special Operations Command. Naturally, this received a lot of attention and it was passed to the guy who handles SOF customers. He related that the email contained several of the right buzz words but that they weren’t quite used in the right context. And, he referred to himself as a “Tactical Chaplain.” On a hunch, and in order to make sure it was all cool with the government customer, the email was forwarded to the US Army Special Forces Command G8 which is in charge of Force Modernization. The compass check was a good call. It appears there are no Combat Chaplains assigned to G8. Instead, a senior SF NCO at G8 read the email and his BS meter pegged. The way it was written didn’t make sense and he couldn’t figure out what a “Tactical Chaplain” was. He called the Tactical Chaplain out and asked him to explain his request as well as the nature of the evaluations he was conducting. Tactical Chaplain apparently thought counseling the troops meant talking kit. As for the more traditional duties of a Man of God? Well, Tactical Chaplain ain’t got time for that.

This is the Tactical Chaplain’s response to an inquiry for explanation from G8:

These reviews are informal in nature but often helpful to the individuals involved. No CDD work implied. I am actually in the process of moving from the military space to the federal space. As a tactical Chaplain, I am often asked for gear review and recommendation (at a team level). My prior service (USMC) included time as an engineer and armorer – so I enjoy the T&E process. I have no experience with Company X and it was recommended to me to investigate their products.

Here is the Force Mod NCO’s response:

Sir,

Your email to the Company X representative stated, “Annually, I am responsible to locate, evaluate and quantify items of tactical gear based on operation needs.”

This statement is misleading to industry. You also have a USASOC email address. Again, this is misleading to industry as it implies that your scope of duties include testing and evaluating kit for USASOC. You are not authorized to conduct T/E for USASOC. If you are a member of this command, then you are not allowed to conduct T/E period, unless selected to do so by a combat developer from this command.

Your actions could cause legal ramifications to yourself and this command.

Turns out, Tactical Chaplain is in transition to the ‘government sector’ from his military duties. As for the follow up? Well, Tactical Chaplain ain’t got time for that. But, if you’re in industry and get a request to T&E a combat crucifix you might want to oblige. Otherwise, if it’s about anything else, you’ll probably say you ain’t got time for that.

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31 Responses to “Tactical Chaplain Ain’t Got Time For That”

  1. Badjujuu says:

    How does “tactical Chaplain” gets his own tag at SSD?
    Shannanigans.

  2. Sgt B says:

    Oh boy, lol, that had me rolling! I bet he has given himself sweet call signs like “Preacher” or “Priest”. What’s next? I bet he refers to being an “Operator” whilst conducting his official duties in the AOR…

  3. MED says:

    Not doubt a patch (or tab) is under development.

    Perhaps a guest appearance on action figure therapy?

  4. AV says:

    I think this could easily turn into a weekly column. Sermon on the (MK19) Mount, or something of that nature. This is great.

  5. Anthony says:

    This was handled very professionally, something I would expect both from the vendor and SSD.

    Well done by all involved.

  6. Agent K says:

    ” And now a reading from the Old Testament…” “Thou shall not covet the devices on thine neighbor’s quad rail…”

  7. Embarrassing way for a guy to score free stuff to play with.

    This guy is a total fraud.

    No USA military chaplain is ever allowed to carry or use firearms. They are often assigned fully armed assistants whose duty it is to protect the chaplain in areas of ongoing combat operations.

    • Terry says:

      Not entirely true… I have seen at least one Navy Chaplain armed with a pistol. He happened to have been a former US Marine during Vietnam with more combat experience than most of the Marines that he looked after.

      • Because I can neither confirm or deny your claim about a US Navy Chaplain, I can say that it is contrary to US military regulations for any military chaplain to be armed. Also, it is contrary to the Geneva Conventions: as described in Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, adopted in June 1977

        • SSD says:

          Sir, you are absolutely correct.

          • I’m a tad on the touchy side on this particular issue because I have a number of friends who are active duty military chaplains, have the highest respect for them, and hate that anyone is posing as some sort of chaplain.

            In fact, one of my friends, was recently made Rear Admiral (lower half) and is now serving as Deputy Chief of Chaplains for Reserve Matters.

            I want to see this poser exposed.

            • DJK, Esq. says:

              As a former Army JAG, I can confirm that an armed Chaplain would have no protections under the Geneva Conventions.

              • Chris says:

                As a current active duty chaplain I can confirm that you are incorrect regarding the Geneva Convention. The conventions lump chaplains in with medical and both are allowed to carry weapons in combat for self protection anti protect their flock/patients. The Geneva Convention prohibits offensive operations by chaplains and medical. It is US policy by each Chief of Chaplains that chaplains not be armed. However, I too have seen my fare share of US chaplains armed in combat as well as those from different countries, especially in Afghanistan.

                • DJK, Esq. says:

                  Chris – I would have thought that it was implicit in my comment that “armed” meant “armed and engaged in offensive operations” given that US policy is for chaplains to not be armed.

                  The fact remains that a chaplain (just like a medic) loses his special protections under the Geneva Conventions the second he *uses* a weapon.

                  Whether a chaplain could, theoretically, carry—but not use—a weapon IAW the Conventions but in contravention of Army policy is frankly irrelevant to my point here.

                • DJK, Esq. says:

                  Just because I’m annoyed that I’ve been trolled by a chaplain, this is what Protocol I, Article 43 § 2 of the Conventions actually says:

                  “Members of the armed forces of a Party to a conflict (other than medical personnel and chaplains covered by Article 33 of the Third Convention) are combatants, that is to say, they have the right to participate directly in hostilities.”

                  Thus, conversely, chaplains HAVE NO RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE DIRECTLY IN HOSTILITIES.

                  You could arguably carry a weapon, perhaps, but what’s the point? The second you use it, brother, you’re an ordinary combatant, regardless of whether you used it in “offensive operations” or for self-defense/defense of others.

                  In any event, my point is that there can be no such thing as a “tactical chaplain” because a chaplain has no right to engage the enemy.

                • DJK, Esq. says:

                  For those [probably very few] SSD readers wondering why a chaplain has no right to engage the enemy, remember that the Conventions are a relic of the WWII era, when our enemies were uniformed soldiers in organized state forces, and the combat role of medics and chaplains was to treat and comfort dying soldiers on the battlefield.

                  In that context, it made sense to prohibit the Nazis from deliberately taking potshots at chaplains while they were administering last rites on Omaha Beach, etc. But at the same time, if chaplains were to receive this special protection, then obviously they couldn’t be allowed to fire at the enemy either. Tit for tat, basically.

                  In today’s era of asymmetrical warfare (what’s a “battlefield?”), the rule doesn’t make as much sense, but it’s still the supreme law of the land.

                • DJK, Esq. says:

                  Eight hours later, I’m still bothered enough about this to dig through the regs. This is a very serious issue and it will always be my personal mission to combat barracks lawyers.

                  The Army prohibition against armed chaplains is not mere “policy.” It’s binding military law, written IAW international laws of war and ratified federal treaties (which are “supreme law of the land” under Art. VI, Cl. 2 of the Constitution every officer swears to uphold).

                  Army Regulation 165-1, para. 4-3c states: “Chaplains are noncombatants and WILL NOT bear arms” (emphasis added). There is no exception for self-defense. There is no exception for “protecting the flock.” There is no exception, period.

                  Chris, if you really are an AD chaplain (which I have some trouble believing given how rudely you “corrected” me), two things:

                  1. Stay in your lane. Leave the interpretation of international law and military regulations to the JAGs, and the weapon-carrying and “protecting the flock” to the poor SPC assigned to follow you around all day.

                  2. Seek out your friendly local SJA’s office and get some follow-on training before you commit war crimes by “protecting your flock” while wearing chaplain’s insignia.

                  • Chris says:

                    Then why do medical personnel carry weapons? Or are you saying as well that they are in violation of the Geneva Conventions. And no I am not practicing barracks law I am repeating that which is taught to JAGs at the JAG school in Maxwell AFB. I am not arguing that chaplains should carry weapons only that the Geneva convention does not exclude it. Many of our allies and NATO partners, signatories to the Conventions, arm their chaplains. That is their choice. Are you accusing them of violations as well? As you stated so well. Armed and engaged in offensive operations is vastly different from armed and engaged in self defense or defense of others. Are you saying a medic that shoots an enemy combatant that is attacking a defenseless patient has lost their protection under the Geneva Convention?

                    • Chris says:

                      Either way tactical chaplain dude is a poser and has no business doing what he did. Although the stuff we get from DLA could really use some updating. Carbon fiber chalice vs heavy steel might be nice :)

                    • DJK, Esq. says:

                      Medics are treated differently because the Conventions specifically allow them to “use … arms in their own defence, or in that of the wounded and sick in their charge” without losing their protections. (See Convention I, Art. 22). I am not aware of a similar exception for chaplains.

                      To summarize:

                      1. Under the Geneva Conventions, chaplains are considered noncombatants. They have no more right to “directly engage in hostilities” than do journalists or civilian contractors.

                      2. You are correct that the Geneva Conventions do not specifically bar chaplains from carrying weapons. However, they DO specifically bar chaplains from directly engaging in hostilities, so it doesn’t really matter whether you could conceivably carry for purposes of this discussion about “tactical” chaplains.

                      3. Army regs specifically prohibit chaplains from being armed, with no exceptions, not even for self-defense. This is why you have a chaplain’s assistant. I haven’t looked at AF but I assume that the rule is the same across all branches. I’ll admit that I merged the regs with the GC in my head, but the result is the same.

                      4. If a chaplain picks up a weapon and uses it for offensive (i.e. “tactical chaplain”) action, he definitely loses his special protections under the Conventions. This same rule applies to medics.

                      5. If a combatant “directly engages in hostilities” while wearing a chaplain’s insignia, he is committing a war crime on par with raising a false flag of surrender or using a medevac helicopter for strafing.

                      6. You could certainly argue that even chaplains have a basic right to self defense (which some NATO countries apparently recognize) but it’s a gray area at best under the GC and a clear violation of US military regs. “Protecting the flock” is a bridge too far in any event, as you could use that rationale to justify actions well beyond immediate self-defense. After all, who ISN’T in your flock?

                      I hope this clarifies things. Sorry for the long-winded responses. This is a genuine area of interest for me (but one that JAGs don’t get to deal with as often as criminal/admin/fiscal law, or I’d still be in).

                      And yes, tactical chaplain is a poser.

                  • Brad says:

                    I, too, am an active Army Chaplain and “I’m annoyed that I’ve been trolled by a chaplain” is about the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time. Thanks for the laugh.

                    BTW, it’s a prohibition, not a policy. We NEVER legally carry weapons! EVER!

  8. Ryan says:

    So totally tangental and yet attached….

    In a SHTF / Zombie / Vampire scenario, I could see the application of a Combat Crucifx.

    If any manufactures out there wanted to jump on that, it’d be awesome. (Patch / stickers / swag, knife sheath, whatever…)

    • Bill says:

      Dalton’s done it.

      And a custom gun wrench did a vampire kit, including 6 silver cast bullets, and backup wood stake.

  9. Middle Man says:

    I’ll probably trip over “tactical chaplain’s” wheeled milk crate at SHOT next week…

  10. Bill says:

    I’m an actual Army Chaplain in USASOC. While many of us are prior-service tactical fanboys and enjoy chatting around the watercooler with Joe about what gear and TTPs to utilize during the approaching Zombie Apocalypse, none of us here would ever:

    A) refer to ourselves as a “tactical Chaplain”.
    B) present ourselves as gear experts to the operators.
    C) attempt to score free toys based on our ministry to operators.

    At least I hope not. I would love to have this guys name…