March 14, 2014
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have left the Virginia National Guard struggling to fill chaplain positions, a trend that mirrors a nationwide shortfall.
Virginia National Guard officials say they have eight of their 19 slots for chaplains filled. That's because Army units are deploying overseas but don't have their own chaplains often request Guard chaplains to fill the vacancies. The National Guard has an overall shortage of 350 chaplains out of the 700 authorized.
The shortage is forcing Guard chaplains to deploy more frequently, and some officials fear clergy will be burned out with more frequent tours.
Virginia Guard officials say they have enough chaplains to deploy for the next three years, but it's unclear how they'll cope beyond that. The Army Guard has bolstered chaplain recruitment nationwide by offering a $10,000 signing bonus, up to $4,500 a year in tuition assistance for seminarians headed for the Guard, and a $20,000 student loan repayment plan.