Checking in On: Chaplaincy!

Hello all! I’m excited to be reporting on my progress so far with my research on the changing roles of the military chaplaincy. Though I’ve done quite a bit of research on this topic, today I want to update you all on the direction that the interviews I am conducting are going.

Ah, interviews. I love reading and listening to interviews. Whether it’s in a newspaper or in a podcast, there’s something so valuable about learning about a topic in a conversational rather than written-narrative form. However, something I’ve already learned is how many different factors come together to make a good, informative interview.

For my project, I am interviewing military chaplains that have served in the Middle East during the era of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, this is a rather small subset of the population at large, and they are a little bit difficult to find! Though they may be few in number (and unarmed in conflict, to boot), this is a mighty group. They make an intriguing subject with an incredible breadth and range of experiences, an important ingredient in an intriguing interview.

Something I’ve also learned about is the importance of thoughtful interview questions that will get to the root of the knowledge I am seeking. Military chaplains are busy people; they don’t have hours and hours to just chat! Then again, most of the people who I think are so interesting to interview are probably very busy! In that vein, I wrote and planned my interview questions with brevity and clarity both in mind. I want to maximize the useful information and experiences that I can obtain from my subjects, without overloading them with questions or taking 3 hours of their time. Here are some of the questions that I think will allow me to do that:

  • One interesting aspect of the chaplaincy is that chaplains often find themselves right at the intersection of church and state. Can you describe what it’s like to be in the thick of this? Do you find this intersection to be an obstacle or difficulty of your work, or an aspect that enhances it and makes it unique (or both)?
  • What is mental health culture like in the military? How does the chaplaincy contribute to its improvement? Do you currently see collaboration between chaplains and mental health professionals? If not, is this something you would like to see? If this already exists, what types of forms does this relationship between chaplains, soldiers, and other professionals take?
  • Do you feel that any/some/most soldiers are more comfortable coming to you for counseling or a mental health professional? Why do you think this is? How are you able to work spirituality into counseling, and how does this change depending on whether the subject is of the same faith tradition as you, or a different faith tradition than you?

Hope you enjoyed the preview of my interviews! I’m excited to share some of the results of these interviews with you soon, but wanted to give you a glimpse at some of the information I’m trying to obtain. Later on, you’ll be hearing more about the research that led me to asking these questions of the chaplains in the first place!

Any suggestions or questions that you have yourselves? Feel free to comment with your ideas!