As the personal assistants to Navy and Marine Corps Chaplains, Sailors in the Religious Program Specialist rating (RP) accompany Chaplains deployed to Forward Operating Bases to form Religious Ministry Teams (RMTs). The services that RMTs provide are, of course, needed wherever Navy personnel are working and serving. But the chaotic, stressful nature of combat environments makes their presence even more urgent in these combat zones.

To equip them with the combat skills necessary to carry out their primary mission of protecting the Chaplains leading their RMTs, RP Sailors are required to undergo Marine Corps Combat Training. But Religious Program Specialist are not exclusively focused on the protection of the Chaplain heading their RMT; they also come to the aid of fellow Sailors and Marines facing threats from enemy combatants.

During the eight-week Chaplain and Religious Program Specialist Expeditionary Skills Training (CREST) course, both members of the RMT undergo exhaustive training in a broad array of skills. Patrolling, combat-lifesaver techniques and principles, weapons training, martial arts, IED response procedures, and even Humvee training are just a few examples of the courses and discipline RP Sailors learn during their time at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina. RPs are evaluated regularly throughout their training and their knowledge is tested in multiple exams—every one of which they must pass with a minimum score of eighty percent.

Just as important as the expeditionary skills Religious Program Specialists learn is the camaraderie that is formed as they work and train with Marines. Seeing RPs getting a taste of the rigorous training regimen they’ve gone through creates a true brothers-in-arms bonding that can prove invaluable during the stress and anxiety of combat.

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Religious Program Specialist (RP) Rating Badge
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Religious Program Specialist (RP) Buckle

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