MISSION OF THE CHIEF
To direct, administer, and manage the
Navy Chaplain Corps and implement
religious ministries to meet the needs of
personnel in the naval service and their
dependents in their pursuit of the free
exercise of religion.
Figure 1-4.Mission of the Chief of Chaplains.
HISTORY OF THE RELIGIOUS
As previously stated, the Religious Program
Specialist (RP) rating was officially established
effective 15 January 1979. However, the concept
of a chaplains assistant dates back to 1878 when
a committee of chaplains recommended to the
Navy Department that a chaplains assistant be
assigned to each ship that had a chaplain aboard.
This assistant would have been a schoolmaster
who could play organ music and lead singing.
Although the recommendation was not adopted,
the idea was given support by successive genera-
tions of chaplains.
Early in 1942 the Navy Department took the
first steps which led to the establishment of the
Specialist (W) rating to assist Navy chaplains. The
(W) referred to welfare and it was decided that
this rate would be established only for the dura-
tion of World War II. The first officially
designated Specialist (W) in the history of the
Navy was W.
Everett Hendricks who was
authorized to enlist on 23 April 1942 with the
rating of Specialist (W) first class. Hendricks was
assigned duty in the Office of the Chaplain at the
Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, Illinois. He
was recognized as a talented musician and choir
director and contributed significantly to the suc-
cess of the famed Great Lakes Bluejacket Choir.
The first publicity that was given to the new
rating by the Bureau of Naval Personnel (now
Naval Military Personnel Command) actually
appeared in a directive dated 25 June 1942
addressed to the Navy Recruiting Service. Eleven
specialist ratings were identified in this directive
including Specialist (W). Those individuals in-
terested in the Specialist (W) rating were directed
to obtain information regarding specific qualifica-
tions from the Chief of Chaplains.
Following the directive which established the
11 specialist ratings, a circular was prepared and
distributed by the Chaplains Division which
outlined the required qualifications for Specialist
(W). A college education was identified as being
desirable for applicants but not absolutely
necessary. Every Specialist (W) had to be able to
play the piano and organ for religious services and
other gatherings. Also, the Specialist (W) was ex-
pected to be a competent choir director. Just as
RPs today cannot exercise any of the ministerial
functions of the clergy, a Specialist (W) was not
expected to serve as a religious leader. The cir-
cular did state that applicants should be willing
to serve anywhere and under any conditions. Ac-
cepted applicants under 25 years of age were given
a third class rating; those between 25 and 28 were
given a second class rating; and those over 28 were
given a first class rating. Those personnel who
enlisted directly into the rating were sent to a train-
ing station for naval indoctrination before being
assigned duties with a chaplain.
The Bureau of Naval Personnel ruled against
Specialists (W) serving aboard ship. It was decided
that they would be used only within the limits of
the continental United States and at selected
overseas bases. Religious Program Specialists
today are afforded a much greater variety of
duty assignments including serving aboard
numerous types of naval vessels.
The possibility of having Specialists (W)
assigned throughout the Naval Shore Establish-
ment was greeted with enthusiasm by Navy
chaplains. Because of the constant transfer of per-
sonnel, chaplains had found it difficult to
maintain qualified musicians at their commands.
The assignment of Specialists (W) helped to solve
this problem and chaplains throughout the Navy
hastened to help qualified applicants become
Selection and Training of Specialists
Most of the applicants for Specialist (W) had
backgrounds as music teachers, professional
musicians, or as church ministers-of-music. Many
were also graduates of the leading schools of