U.S. Military Chaplains Support More than 100 Faiths

December 11, 2006

Author: Judyth Piazza

Source: News Blaze


As the demographics of the U.S. military have changed in recent years, the military has become more intent on facilitating religious practices of all of its members.

Chief Master Sergeant Aphrodite Kafka, an Orthodox Christian, who has served in the Air Force for decades, has seen changes during her time in uniform. Thirty years ago, at basic training, Kafka's commanders told her to go to the Protestant service. "It was a shock," she recalls.

More recently, while stationed at Osan Air Force Base in Korea, Kafka was given a van to drive to Seoul to attend a weekly Orthodox service. When deployed in Iraq during the Advent, she found dairy-free and meat-free food in the dining hall; and before going on a mission, she consulted with an Orthodox Christian military chaplain to get a special dispensation from her faith's dietary requirements. Recently, kosher and halal field rations became available for Jews and Muslims.

Some believe those changes in the military reflect changes in the population as a whole. There are more Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs in the United States today, and younger officers grew up in a multicultural society. At the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, for instance, a new prayer hall for Muslims recently opened.

Robert W. Tuttle, a law professor with expertise in military history at George Washington University, points to another factor - that the United States abolished the general draft in 1973. To maintain good morale in an all-volunteer force, he said, the Pentagon must pay more attention to the troops' religious needs.