In keeping with the First Amendment rights to free-dom of religion, the United States Air Force provides Chaplains for a variety of faiths and denominations to enable its Airmen to enjoy the practice of their religious liberty. But the incredible diversity of different faiths, belief systems, and religious creeds means the Air Force can only create Chaplain positions for those religions that meet a minimum threshold number of adherents in the service, and then only in proportion to their numbers, which is why there are currently (2016) only two Muslim imams serving as USAF Chaplains.

Like all officers in the Chaplain Corps, Muslims wishing to provide spiritual leadership to their brethren must do far more than profess an eagerness to share their faith. Among the fairly steep requirements that must be met to be considered as a Chaplain Candidate is a bachelor’s degree (with at least 120 semesters hours of credit), a Master of Divinity or an equivalent degree with a minimum of 72 hours of credit from an accredited school or institution.

Beyond academics, candidates wishing to serve as Muslim Air Force Chaplains must have two years of leadership experience in a religious ministry and submit a video of a sermon or message being delivered in a civilian setting. Only candidates who received an Ecclesiastical Endorsement from a Department of Defense-approved endorsing agency are considered, and at the current time there are only two of those (the Islamic Society of North America and the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council). And because of the sensitive nature of information that might be relayed to Chaplains, all potential Chaplains must pass a security clearance.

Once admitted, Chaplains undergo a five-week Commissioned Officer Training Course, followed by a two-week Chaplain Candidate Course at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. They then spend seven weeks in an internship that takes them across all branches of the USAF—Active Duty, Reserve, and Air National Guard—to gain a complete understanding of the unique needs of each area of service.

Regardless of the faith they represent, one of the main duties of Air Force Chaplains is to listen to the spiritual and emotional concerns of enlisted Airmen and bring them to the attention of commanders and senior leaders. They are essential not only in maintaining morale, but also in providing information and counseling to Airmen dealing with life crises.
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