Like so many aspects of the United States Air Force, the Chaplain Corps traces its beginning the early days of World War II and the United States Army Air Force (USAAF). On July 28, 1942, Captain Charles I. Carpenter was appointed as the first Air Chaplain of the USAAF. After working at the Pentagon to help lay the foundations for the service’s chaplaincy, Carpenter was ordered to Europe in support of USAAF units stationed there; the end of the war saw his return to the Pentagon.

With the creation of the United States Air Force as a unique and separate branch of the United States Armed Forces, Carpenter became a strong proponent of establishing a separate Air Force chaplaincy because he felt that enlisted Air Force personnel would more closely identify with Chaplains and associated staff who represented their branch of service. Carpenter’s opinion held sway over Carl Spaatz, Commanding General of the Air Force, and on May 10, 1949, he ordered the creation of the Air Force Chaplaincy in the form it still exists in today and appointed Carpenter its Chief of Chaplains.

Carpenter vigorously promoted the efforts of the chaplaincy to not only provide freedom for Airmen to exercise their religious beliefs, but also to actively instill a sense of need for holiness among Airmen. At one point during his tenure as Chief of Chaplains in the early 1950s, there more than twenty Chaplains on duty at Lackland Air Force Base, including fourteen Protestant ministers, five Catholic priests, a Jewish rabbi, a Christian Scientist, and a Mormon bishop.

Today, the Air Force has Chaplains representing almost every conceivable branch of the Christian creed, but in recent years some of them have come under attack for attempting to proselytize believers of other faiths. The allegations have been denied by the Christian Chaplains accused of such conduct, but the controversies have led the Air Force to clearly define the roles of Chaplains and Chaplain Assistants in providing protection of the First Amendment rights of all Airmen.

The badge of the Christian Chaplain features a cross, historic symbol of the Christian faith for both Protestants and Catholics. Like other Chaplain badges, it is awarded in a single degree.
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