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Face of Defense: Sailor Describes Journey From Corpsman to Chaplain

Aug. 7, 2017 | BY Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jacquelyn Childs, Navy Medicine Education and Training Command
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Navy Medicine Education, Training and Logistics Command held a small and unusual commissioning ceremony Aug. 1 at their headquarters at Joint Base San Antonio for one of the Navy’s newest chaplain selects.

Navy Ensign Charles Wilton receives his first salute
Navy Ensign Charles Wilton receives his first salute from Chief Petty Officer Felipe Rios during Wilton's commissioning ceremony at Navy Medicine Education, Training and Logistics Command headquarters at Joint Base San Antonio, Aug. 1, 2017. Wilton was a hospital corpsman for 13 years before being selected to serve in the Chaplain Corps and receiving his commission. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jacquelyn D. Childs
Navy Ensign Charles Wilton receives his first salute
Corpsman to Chaplain
Navy Ensign Charles Wilton receives his first salute from Chief Petty Officer Felipe Rios during Wilton's commissioning ceremony at Navy Medicine Education, Training and Logistics Command headquarters at Joint Base San Antonio, Aug. 1, 2017. Wilton was a hospital corpsman for 13 years before being selected to serve in the Chaplain Corps and receiving his commission. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jacquelyn D. Childs
Photo By: Petty Officer 1st Class Jacquelyn Childs
VIRIN: 170801-N-GA424-007

Navy Ensign Charles Wilton was a hospital corpsman first class before receiving his commission during the ceremony. He worked in curriculum management for the academics directorate at NMETLC, but has long known his true calling was in the ministry.

“I was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in the summer of 2013 when I first felt the call to become a chaplain,” Wilton said. “I had to wait at least two years since I had only recently converted to Catholicism. So, once I got back from my deployment, I used the next few years for reflection. I attended retreats, found a spiritual director to guide me, and became more involved with my parish.”

Wilton became very involved with the church and community while stationed in Japan over the next couple years. He organized the volunteers’ schedules, trained altar servers and readers, and became the assistant choir director.

Since arriving at NMETLC in 2016, Wilton has continued to participate in his church and successfully applied for the Chaplain Corps, all during a busy year for NMETLC’s academics, who were working on several large-scale projects -- including the curriculum revision for the Navy’s largest rating, hospital corpsman.

Application Process

The application process included several interviews, and Wilton had to collect letters of endorsement, his college transcripts and write a motivational statement.

“It’s a fairly extensive and labor-intensive process, like most commissioning programs in the Navy, and justifiably so,” he said. “The Navy wishes to separate the wheat from the chaff, determine those truly desiring and those who are not.”

One of the chaplains Wilton interviewed with, Lt. Cmdr. Doyle Adams from Navy Medicine Training Support Center, remarked on the unusual nature of Wilton’s commissioning after serving as an enlisted sailor.

“It's not all that common,” Adams said. “I've seen maybe five enlisted service members commissioned as chaplains in the past 15 years. I've actually never seen a corpsman selected.”

Wilton said he feels his experience as an enlisted service member will benefit him as a chaplain and officer since he is already familiar with the culture and will be able to relate to both sides. He expressed great appreciation for the opportunity to fulfill his dream in becoming a Navy chaplain.

“This means a lot to me because after serving as a hospital corpsman for 13 years, I now have an opportunity to take my service to God, country and the Navy and Marine Corps team to the next level,” he said. “I am putting down the stethoscope and picking up my cross.”

After receiving his commission, the next step for Wilton is to earn his Masters of Divinity Degree through a six-year seminary. He will start school this month. Wilton will also attend Officer Development School, the Navy Chaplain School and receive on-the-job training as a chaplain candidate.