Story by Petty Officer 3rd Class Oscar Quezada
PACIFIC OCEAN – Chaplain candidate program officers (CCPOs) are visiting USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) while underway to see what it takes to be a Navy chaplain.
“It is a phenomenal program, and it is a time for them to test the Navy and it to test them,” said Lt. Cmdr. Tavis J. Long, one of John C. Stennis’ chaplains and a mentor for the CCPOs, from Dover, Ohio. “I can honestly say that the CCPOs here are the kinds of chaplains we need, that the Navy needs.”
Once accepted into the chaplain candidate program, applicants attend the Direct Commission Officer Indoctrination Course to become commissioned officers in the inactive reserve. While they are commissioned officers in the inactive reserve, they must complete their master’s degree and get two years of ministry experience before petitioning to become an active-duty chaplain.
“I felt called to ministry,” said Lt. j. g. James Lee Carnes, a CCPO, from Turlock, California. “After graduating from Bible college, I was just praying about where the Lord was calling me to and felt him putting the military on my heart. I enlisted as a religious programs specialist to get started in that journey and almost nine years later, I’m still on that journey.”
The CCPOs aboard the ship are in different stages of the program, but they all capitalized on the opportunity John C. Stennis provided for on-the-job training and to experience what it takes to be a chaplain out at sea.
“They come in and they have phenomenal spirit,” said Long. “I want them to have as much a taste of being a chaplain as I have. They come in willing and ready to do anything, but I then want to make sure that what we give them to do is meaningful.”
During the underway, they will be familiarizing themselves with the ship and experiencing different facets of ship life.
The CCPOs are observing and assisting the ship’s chaplains in church services and leading the crew in evening prayer. They are also learning about corrective actions from the commanding officer and the executive officer in order to better understand the process on how to counsel Sailors who might find themselves in those situations.
“I’m extremely blessed for this opportunity to be onboard [John C. Stennis],” said Carnes. “We had incredible hosts. It’s been a wonderful experience.”