View Full Version : Can a Chaplain Corp Officer become a Special Forces Officer?

05-19-2014, 01:39
I have read of prior enlisted Special Forces qualified soldiers who have served as Chaplain Corp Officers. I know of non Special Forces qualified Chaplains who have served in the Groups. However, can a Chaplain Corp Officer enter and pass the Q course to become a Special Forces Officer, but then afterwards revert to primarily performing the duties of a Chaplain Corp Officer?

I have found two individuals that seem to have done this. Their stories seem kind of fishy to me. Can someone in the Special Forces community please verify these two gentlemen?

Rev. Peter Hofman

Captain Tim Crawley

05-19-2014, 03:20
There is not enough information to vet these two individuals. But I can make an observations:

I had a classmate in Infantry OCS who was an ordained minster. He and I both were assigned to Ft Brag after jump school. Myself to 6th gp he was in 7th gp. We both went to JFK scuba school in KW. I can not verify if he got his "3" tag on his MOS.

The point SOME minsters preach but that is not their MOS.. This may be what Peter Hofman has accomplished.

Tim Crawley could also have followed the same route, but the article never says he graduated from the Q.

In either case, if they finished the course and have not served on a team, they are both stretching their resumes..

Of the available pictures, each wears a chaplain's cross, not crossed arrows..

05-19-2014, 03:24
I do not know either of these two gentlemen, but I have served with several Special Forces qualified chaplains. A couple of them were SF NCOs who went that route, the rest went to the "Q" course as chaplains.
Their stories do not seem fishy to me.

05-19-2014, 04:06
I know Pete Hofman. He is an ordained Chaplin that attended the SFQC, he is not an 18A. Occasionally, (I am not sure of the numbers or the pathway) SWCS allows support officers to attend the 18A pipeline.

The primary reason is to enable the person to provide better support to the Special Forces Regiment. I believe Pete said it best in the article “The type of men I am around . . . judge a book by its cover. The way they do this is by your uniform. With the Ranger tab and Special Forces tab I enter their brotherhood,” he explained. “When they need someone to turn to they can say, ‘This guy understands me.’”

I have seen this done with Veterinarians before too. To be clear, he will never serve on an ODA or command Special Forces units. He is a Chaplin and will probably spend the rest of his career supporting SF.

05-19-2014, 06:08
Back in the day(long before the Tab), there were chaplains who went through the SFOC and wore the flash while serving in group.

05-19-2014, 16:46
Back in the day(long before the Tab), there were chaplains who went through the SFOC and wore the flash while serving in group.

Yep, we had Dr's., Dentist, Chaplins, and pilots in my SFQC class.

05-19-2014, 16:49
As Joker stated, we have had many Chaplains headed to Groups (to be Chaplains) come through the course.

05-19-2014, 17:05
Back in the day that was authorized...sending other O types thru the Q course.
In the mid 90's our assets became a tad stretched (short instructors) and we restricted any non operator/team types from attending.
Hopefully, that is still the case.

The Reaper
05-19-2014, 19:22
It would be very rare, as the SFQC is an MOS producing Course, and the Army would lose the services of a Chaplain while he is in the pipeline. More likely for an SF qualified guy to get out and go to Seminary to get qualified as a Chaplain. Our 7th Group Chaplain was a Major who had been an SF SSG or SFC in Vietnam and ran Recon. He had earned a Silver Star there. He married my wife and I and he went on to retire as a Colonel. Great man, proud to have him as a friend.

Probably make a lot more sense to ask for Ranger School.

Having said that...


Unconventional Warfare

Leadership secrets of a Green Beret chaplain.

Tim Crawley CH (CPT)


What do a preacher, a new CEO, and a Green Beret have in common? They all seek to change a culture from within their jungles.

A preacher navigates the jungle of spiritual entanglements. The new CEO seeks to change the wasteful or complacent jungles of past failures. The Green Beret lives in remote jungles of conflicted areas persuading village chiefs of geo-political realities. The jungles are different. The resources are different.

The heart of the mission is not. Each seeks to change a culture. This means changing people's assumptions, loyalties, and efforts. It is every leader's greatest challenge.

As a military chaplain and spiritual leader, I learned this vividly during my training with Special Forces (SF).

After my chaplaincy training, I was given the opportunity to attend the Army's Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS). Upon successfully completing selection, I was invited to attend the Special Forces Qualification Course, the arduous "Q Course," approximately 18 months of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion.

You are trained by "the cadre," seasoned Green Berets who ensure that you are challenged with physical, mental, and ethical dilemmas. This training is designed to ensure that those who graduate are able to represent the strategic interests of the United States with minimal supervision and significant authority.

The "bread and butter" mission set for Special Forces is Unconventional Warfare, which is defined as "operations conducted by, with, or through irregular forces in support of a resistance movement, an insurgency, or conventional military operations." Not to get tangled in the military lingo, this simply means being intentional in your efforts, in the people you work with, and in your purpose.

Changing a culture requires intentionality. But intentionality without focus can be the difference between a child's night light and a surgical laser. Whether we are ministers facing evils of "the world, the flesh, and the devil" or whether we are SF preparing a village to resist the Taliban, we are taking on culture change in a challenging context.

During this training, what I learned about Unconventional Warfare has uncanny application for ministry leadership. There are seven phases of Unconventional Warfare. Allow me to tell my story through these seven phases.


I appreciate the phrase "Not all activity is productivity." As an Army chaplain, I enjoy being surrounded by type-A personalities, goal-oriented and motivated. I get jazzed as I consider the possibility of a church full of men like Peter. Just imagine the benefit for the Kingdom of God with a group of all-or-nothing men on fire for the Lord and their families! That was one reason I was excited to attend the Q course, where I'd be among this kind of men.

Jeremiah 12:5 says, "If you have run with footmen and they have wearied you, how can you contend with horses?" My heart was pounding and I questioned my sanity when I agreed to attend the Q Course. What have I just gotten myself into? I was a non-tactically trained chaplain about to contend with horses half his age. But I wanted unfettered access to these men, and taking the full SF training was an important step.

My preparation phase included getting up at 2 a.m. to go on 16-mile road marches with a 65-pound pack, then going to work, working out for two hours at the end of work, extensive foot conditioning, going home to juggle family time, recovery, and hitting the manuals. Many evenings and weekends included land navigation (often at night, over unfamiliar terrain), map reading, and route planning training. This was all just to pass the three-week selection test hoping I'd get selected to move on to the Q course.

Cheating the preparation phase is a great temptation for a leader. In ministry too, many times we fail before we get started because of poor preparation. In order to lead successfully in changing your culture, you cannot bypass the lonely and laborious phase of preparation-physically, mentally, emotionally.

Initial contact

For SF, initial contact means getting in there and taking a thorough first look-the proverbial sneak-behind-the-curtains-so you know what you're dealing with before making any drastic decisions or commitment of resources.

In ministry, people's initial contact with you often begins with your reputation.

It's what people know (or think they know) about you.

"Your reputation in the regiment starts now." If I heard that once, I heard it 300 times. The military is a fairly self-contained culture. And in a culture like that, word travels fast. Your reputation, your character, and your performance of yesterday follows you into tomorrow.

Yes, "the Lord grants favor, and controls the king's heart," as Scripture says.

Yes, "He redeems our failures and the years that the locusts have eaten." But we can't forget that "a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches."

The man of God walks with integrity of heart, treats all as image bearers, and lives from clearly defined principles.

For example, "Mr. X" was perhaps the crudest and most vile man I have ever encountered. He also happened to be one of my primary instructors for Small Unit Tactics training. From the beginning, he made it clear that he did not like me. In fact, one night after coming in from doing patrols, we were filthy and exhausted. He called me out in front of everyone.

Oh great, I thought. What now? Eloquently and profanely he expressed his complete disdain for me, a chaplain, being in the course. He boisterously stated that a chaplain had no business here where "real soldiers" were training because their lives depended on it. After 10 minutes of berating, he sent me back to my squad. Some of the men tried to console me; others simply kept their distance from me.

Fast forward two months. Once again after coming in from patrols, we were filthy and exhausted. Once again, Mr. X called me out in front of everyone.

Once again it was a 10-minute ordeal. This time, however, he concluded: "Chaplain, you ask a lot of questions. You ask some dumb questions ... but you are hungry to learn. You are learning from your stupid mistakes, and the mistakes of others. I know I told you I didn't think you belonged here, but some of your teammates have a lot to learn from you. I wish everyone coming through this course had your attitude. The regiment would be better for it."

Could this really be happening? Was that actually a compliment Mr. X just gave me? Apparently so. From that moment on, I was "in" with him and his life. I have seen him multiple times since graduating, and each time we greeted each other with a hug and warm exchanges.

Your initial contact opens the door for you to implement needed change.

(cont. below)

The Reaper
05-19-2014, 19:23

Whether in ministry or in Special Operations, just because you are somewhere, doesn't mean that you are "in." As a chaplain, I will never be "in" with the regular operators, nor is that my goal. One of the most foolish desires a chaplain, or any leader for that matter, can make is trying to be "one of the guys." Leaders are not just one of the guys. They are leaders. Don't compromise who you are or what you set out to do. Your job is to lead. But I do want access to their lives.

Peer pressure isn't just for teenagers. I wish I could have left that back with my acne, but it follows you. Through the course of my training, my insecurity grew as I foolishly compared myself with others (remember running with horses half my age?). My heart continuously questioned if I was measuring up.

The other men had much more tactical knowledge than me. During the training, I wasn't treated as a chaplain but as a future Operational Detachment Team Leader. But with my limited experience tactically, I wasn't as proficient in the exercises as the others. I questioned if I could really contribute to my team.

This quandary was answered during "Robin Sage." Robin Sage is an extensive training exercise, the culmination of training before graduating the Q course. I was walking with another team leader when he told me that he was hoping that we would be on the same team.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing! He was a West Point graduate, a Ranger, a veteran of Afghanistan, airborne and scuba qualified, and as far as I was concerned a poster child for the Army. Why would he be glad that I was on his team? He explained that he had tremendous respect for me because he observed my work ethic, positive attitude, pure motives, and character.

Sometimes culture change occurs by infiltrating one life at a time.


The previous phases focus on intentionality of effort. Organization focuses on intentionality of people. Unconventional Warfare can only be successful if the right indigenous people are in the right roles. Without the indigenous people, the mission fails. Green Berets are the masters of finding the right people, training them, and setting them up for success. They connect the right people with the right people.

Over the past few years, God has been teaching me that I am not to be a one-man show. The Q course taught me the foolishness of this paradigm. No matter how dedicated I am, I cannot be always available to everyone for every need. I have tried. I have failed. Moses tried. Moses failed. Jethro's advice still stands: find others who are capable and work together. God has enabled me to meet and work alongside tremendous co-workers such as my fellow chaplains, pastors, local churches, the Navigators, and Cadence. They love Christ and seek out fellow and future worshipers.

A leader must connect the right people to the right people in order to change a culture.

Build up

People need resources. The preacher equips the people to do the work of ministry. The CEO acquires the necessary office supplies and the right technology. The Green Beret has to get the beans, the bandages, and the bullets into the hands of the indigenous allies.

The North Carolina heat was punishing. A good friend of mine and I were just trying to keep cool and find some shade when he began asking me spiritual questions. Beautiful story cut short, he came to Christ right then and there in the woods. The next few weeks were marked by hour after hour of Q & A's. He wanted to know everything he could about his new Savior and his Word.

I had connected him with the Right Person, but it was time to begin resourcing and building him up for his own assignment from God. Before long, he would be a team leader serving in hidden places around the globe.

He would soon have the opportunity to change culture where I could not go. My job was to equip him as best I could.


A common phrase in SF is to work "by, with, and through" allies and indigenous people. The people, not the leader, accomplish the work.

As I write this, I sit in Afghanistan. There are 22 separate Bible studies that are conducted weekly in my small compound. Do you know how many are chaplain led? Zero. Praise God! My co-laborers are passionate followers of Christ and extremely hard working men. God has built up many men who are now leading their own outreaches and studies. My job as a chaplain is to resource, train, enable, and encourage this momentum, so the work is done "by, with, and through" others. The spotlight was never mine anyway.

When the people are willingly employed, you know that the culture has started to change.


Ideas and ideals outlive the leader. When the culture has changed, the leader's mission is accomplished. The people now own the mission. It is theirs. Handing off the responsibilities to others is the seventh and final phase of culture change. The leader then must reboot, reconsider, and re-engage the next culture that needs to be changed.

Knowing that transition is coming can provide impetus for the task. This is one of the things SF has taught me. The military makes transition a regular part of life. Leadership has to be handed off, usually sooner rather than later. This makes for a "get it done now" atmosphere.

My time with the men in Q course came to an end, and I was able to put my chaplain's cross on my newly awarded Green Beret. Then we were all sent to various assignments. At each assignment, I begin again the task of changing culture, building an atmosphere where people thrive, and God is honored. Yes, ministry is indeed an unconventional warfare.

Captain Tim Crawley is a chaplain currently serving in Afghanistan.

05-19-2014, 19:39
I was married by an SF qualified chaplain. He was an IN and SF Officer who got out and went to seminary school, and then returned to the Army and SF. He was also Ranger qualified, had a CIB and Master wings and a Pathfinder badge, and his awards included a BSM w/V and PH.

Can a member of the Chaplain Corps (Notice the spelling of Corps, Tim) be SF qualified? Many have - many will assuredly become so in the future.


05-19-2014, 20:39

I think we are caught up in technicalities like branch/assignment, APL and

05-19-2014, 22:13
As stated before, an Army Chaplain can, and they routinely do, attend the entire SFQC as an 18A student. I'm deployed to Pineland right now so cant give you the last class that we had one in, but I'm pretty sure it was this calendar year. Even during our "Surge," we would see them in classes.

Current Instructor, Field Team
18A Phase, SFQC

05-20-2014, 00:18
Gentlemen, thank you for the information. Right now I am just a Army ROTC puke with a lot to learn. I mean no disrespect to these two Reverends.

05-21-2014, 05:52
I went through with Tim, he went in as a Chaplain and as TR's article states, is currently serving as one now. However, he did tell me that it was difficult for him to get approval from his branch to do it and isn't all that common. To be honest I'm not sure its worth the while for the Army.

05-22-2014, 17:54
There are plenty of chaplains in SF Groups who are not nor have ever been SF qualified. I can remember two in 1st SFG(A) recently who were only airborne qualified.

05-22-2014, 18:54
Is there still some sort of staff orientation course now that the SF Tab is in place? :confused:

Back when, most of the MI/AG/MC/VC/CH/MSC ffolkes went to the staff orientation course (something like 9 weeks IIRC) which prepared them to serve in SF in a support position and wear the full flash BUT did not prepare them to be an ODA CDR.

And then there were always a number of guys that had been SF NCOs prior to graduating OCS or ROTC and came back to Group in all sorts of branch affiliations to serve either in their primary or secondary branch specialty.


05-22-2014, 19:40
At least when I was at the Tng Gp we stopped 'visitor' SF qual non SF branched attendee's.
I can't see the bang for the buck.
A Chaplain, of any religion, is there to mentor OUR troops not the indig and being SF Qualified doesn't make him a whit better at his job.
He is not going to interface with the indig in an SF manner as that is not his gig...in any way, shape, form.
I appreciated the prior enlisted SF guys that went Chap corps etc. but it didn't make me respect them any more/less in their new job.
It was irrelevant.
For every non branched guy going thru there was one less team guy.
That goes against what the Tng Gp stands for.
How many hundreds of thousands of dollars goes to each attendee...and we need to waste that for an I've been there certificate that pays no dividends.

Chaplain Scott
05-24-2014, 21:28
Very few Chaplains are allowed to attend either Ranger school or the Q course. Over the years, the policies change back and forth. Back when I was Group Chaplain for 1st Group ('84-''86) the policy was "Don't even ask." I submitted numerous requests anyway, all of which mysteriously got lost at the Chief of Chaplain's office in one particular office. Then a few years later, a Chaplain friend of mine went thru Ranger school and another Chaplain friend went thru the Q course. Then things tightened back up again. Luck of the draw.

The reality here is that part of the issue is indeed, as was pointed out, finances and slots. The assignment pattern for Chaplains, as they progress in rank means that Chaplains very infrequently get back to the Special Ops community--there are just not that many positions available as you move up thru the rank structure compared to the rest of the conventional Army.

The other part of the issue is that as young Chaplains, there is a great internal push to "fit in" and have the correct badges on the uniform. With maturity, comes the understanding that its not what I wear on my uniform, but who I am in my heart and character that make me truly approachable and useful. AH, but that maturity---its often hard to attain and it often comes with great lumps and bruises..........

06-19-2014, 07:40
I know Pete Hofman. He is an ordained Chaplin that attended the SFQC, he is not an 18A. Occasionally, (I am not sure of the numbers or the pathway) SWCS allows support officers to attend the 18A pipeline.

The primary reason is to enable the person to provide better support to the Special Forces Regiment. I believe Pete said it best in the article “The type of men I am around . . . judge a book by its cover. The way they do this is by your uniform. With the Ranger tab and Special Forces tab I enter their brotherhood,” he explained. “When they need someone to turn to they can say, ‘This guy understands me.’”

I have seen this done with Veterinarians before too. To be clear, he will never serve on an ODA or command Special Forces units. He is a Chaplin and will probably spend the rest of his career supporting SF.

Yea, Pete (CPT Hofman) and I deployed together in 2012 and he's been talking about earning his tab for years. And he's not the first I've had. My Chaplain (I forget his name) in 1/1 SFG(A) earned his tab while serving as a Chaplain in the early '90s. The program has been around a while.

Utah Bob
06-30-2014, 15:59
Mr. Spock, what's your take on this?
I find it fascinating, Jim. Although the logic escapes me.

07-03-2014, 19:59
We had many, many different support branch officers qualified through the SF Detachment Officer Qualification Course in the mid-80s through the early 90s. Although they could be awarded a tab and the identifier they remained in their own branch (chaplains, docs, veterinarians, dentists, etc.) and wore their basic branch brass (crosses, caduceus, etc.).

They do NOT "Steal" a quota or slot from NCOs -- they will never become an 18B, C, D, E, F, or 180A.

DOD GWOT policy has been to rotate units overseas on short tours -- they have NOT PCS-planted a group flag forward which may or may not have required MOS-qual'ed other branch officers. Most officer management program restrictions from the Cold War seem to have gone away, others just got worse.

Having jump wings seems to still be the common denominator for being able to divert an MD to serve as the Group Surgeon / Dive Surgeon / Flight Surgeon, or one of the other branch officers into SMU, Group, and Battalion-level staff positions (dentist, vet, SIGO, Comptroller, etc.). We had a number who served as jumpmasters, one who was MFF-qualified, and a few others who some time during their careers went through Ranger school.

Padres had to have special permission/dispensation to carry a weapon through the course (since they are non-combatants per Geneva-Hague).

While they certainly looked odd with the cross on the collar they still had a long tab and occasionally a star or wreath on their wings.

07-26-2014, 00:35
There was a Chaplain going through the course a couple of classes ago. He said they are letting one or two a year go through the course. He did well.

Prior to putting this guy through I had only met a couple of Chaplains that reclassified after serving in Group for a number of years.

07-26-2014, 04:47
Some of you certainly must remember Chaplain Dennington.
Of course I think he started as an SF Officer and then later became a chaplain.
Awesome dude.

I've seen quite a few long tab Padres in my day, but without a doubt, Chaplain Dennington and Chaplain Hoffman are the two best.

The Reaper
07-26-2014, 09:35
Some of you certainly must remember Chaplain Dennington.
Of course I think he started as an SF Officer and then later became a chaplain.
Awesome dude.

I've seen quite a few long tab Padres in my day, but without a doubt, Chaplain Dennington and Chaplain Hoffman are the two best.

Neil Dennington was an SF NCO who ran recon and was awarded a Silver Star.

He went on to become a chaplain later in his career.

An outstanding chaplain, NCO, and officer.