How to Address a Military Chaplain

How to Address a Chaplain

——–Also on this page:
——–—-Chaplian USMC, USN, USAF, USCG: See below
——–—-Link to Chaplain USA
——–—-—-Chaplain with a Doctorate
——–—-—-My Pastor who is Also a Chaplain

Chaplain in the U.S. Armed Services: USMC, USN, USAF, USCG

—-Envelope, official:
—-—-(Full rank) (Full Name), (post nominal for branch of service)

——–—-Which looks like:
—-——–—-Major John E. Doe, USAF

—-Letter salutation:
—-—-Dear Chaplain (surname):
—-—-Dear Father Doe  (Priest, Roman Catholic or Orthodox)
——–Dear Father/Mother Doe  (Priest, Episcopal)
—-Dear Pastor Doe  (Protestant clergy)

—-—-Dear Rabbi Doe  (Jewish)


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

Chaplain in the U.S. Armed Services: USA

U.S. Army style guides suggests the following style.

—-Envelope, official:
—-—-Chaplain (full rank in parentheses) (Full Name), USA

———-—-This official form would look like:
———-—-—-Chaplain (Major) John E. Doe, USA

—-Envelope, Social:
—-—-Chaplain (Major) John E. Doe

The same US Army regulation also suggests the following style for chaplains in conversation regardless of military rank or title:

—-Conversation & salutation:
—-—-Chaplain (surname)
—--___—Chaplain Doe

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

How to Address a Military Chaplain with an Academic Degree?

We have chaplains using this title: Chaplain John Smith, USAF, Ph.D.. O.K.?  What if he’s retired?
————————-– Chaplain Matt

Dear Chaplain Matt:
—-#1) A a post-nominal abbreviation for an academic degree is never used with a rank. The only correct form is (Rank+Name)+(Branch of service):

—-—-All of these are incorrect:
—-—-—-Colonel John Smith, USMC, M.B.A.
—-—-—-Admiral John Smith, USN, M.D.
—-—-—-General John Smith, USAF, Ph.D.

—-—-All of these are correct – even though they hold a high academic degree:
—-—-—-Colonel John Smith, USMC
—-—-—-Admiral John Smith, USN
—-—-—-General John Smith, USAF

—-This is the USMC, USN, USAF, USCG style. For the US Army style, use the USA forms on this page. But still — never include an academic degree with a rank.

—-#2) In Department of Defense (DoD) guidelines branch-of-service post-nominals abbreviations are correctly combined with ‘Ret.’ or ‘Retired’, but that’s it.

—-—-All of these are correct:
—-—-—-Colonel John Smith, USMC, Retired
—-—-—-General John Smith, USAF, Ret.
—-—-—-Chaplain (Major) John E. Doe, USA, Retired

– Robert Hickey   How to Address a Military Chaplain


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

My Pastor Who is Also a Chaplain?

My pastor is also a military chaplain: I must write in our church newsletter regarding the pastor’s deployment. Which of these would be considered correct? Are any of them simply not correct at all?
——–The Reverend Chaplain (Full Name), chaplain of the Indiana Army National Guard.
—-—-The Reverend Lieutenant Colonel (Full Name), chaplain of the ….
—-—-Lieutenant Colonel Chaplain (Full Name), chaplain of the …. and pastor of ….
—-Or, is there another form that would be more preferred?
—-—-—-—-—-—-– Lynn Harriman, Indianapolis

Dear Ms. Harriman,
There is a tradition in American forms of address that we only give a person one title at time.
—-#1) Use the Armed Services form for a Chaplain and describe him as a Pastor
—-#2) Use the form for a Pastor and describe him as a Chaplain

—-The formally correct way write his name in his role at your church is:
—-The Reverend (Full Name), (degrees held)

—-Then you can include after his name or somewhere in text:
—-—-The Reverend (Full Name) is a Chaplain of the Indiana Army National Guard holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

And when he’s on active duty with the National Guard they will use his chaplain form of address and note that he is also the pastor of your church.

– Robert Hickey How to Address a Military Chaplain How to Address Chaplain Pastor Priest with Another Title

See other chaplians:
Chaplain of the Senate or the House
Chaplain in the Armed Services
Chaplain of a College or University
w to Address a University Chaplain


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

When Should You Use the Forms on this Page?

You can use these forms of address for any mode of communication: addressing a letter, invitation, card or Email. (If there are differences between the official and social forms of address, I will have mentioned the different forms.)  The form noted in the salutation is the same form you say when you say their name in conversation or when you greet them.
___What I don’t cover on this site are many things I do cover in my book: all the rules of forms of address, about names, international titles, precedence, complimentary closes, details on invitations, place cards, all sorts of introductions, etc. I hope you’ll get a copy of the book if you’d like the further detail.

Not Finding Your Answer?

—-#1)  At right on desktops, at the bottom of every page on tablets and phones, is a list of all the offices, officials & topics covered on the site.

—-#2)  If you don’t see the official you seek included or your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day or so (unless I am traveling.)  Note: I don’t have mailing or Email addresses for any of the officials and I don’t keep track of offices that exist only in history books.

—-#3)  If I think your question is of interest to others, Sometimes I post the question  – but always change all the specifics.

— Robert Hickey 


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”