Jennifer Pilat serves with Navy Chaplain Corps

By Rick Burke, Navy Office of Community Outreach

MILLINGTON, Tenn. – Lt. j.g. Jennifer Pilat, whose mother resides in Columbia recently completed training at Naval Chaplaincy School to serve as a chaplain for America’s seafaring warfighters.

Pilat graduated from Irmo High School in 2003 and Virginia Theological Seminary in 2019. Additionally, Pilat is a four-time graduate of the University of South Carolina and is currently studying toward a doctorate in ministry through the University of the South.

Pilat joined the Navy six and a half years ago.

“I joined the Navy to have the chance to support and uplift sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen,” said Pilat.

More than 800 Navy chaplains from more than 100 faith groups, including Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist, serve in the Navy Chaplain Corps. After seven weeks of training at Naval Chaplaincy School and Center at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island, the chaplains set on their mission to provide support and guidance to sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen at sea and on the shore.

“In conversations about national defense, you hear about great power competition and competition among peers and near-peers,” said Capt. Charles Varsogea, chaplain and commanding officer of the Naval Chaplaincy school. “The people of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard have no peers. Part of what makes them peerless defenders of the Constitution is their determination to do so with body, mind, and spirit. No nation on earth can replicate the fighting spirit of our sea services. The graduates of our Basic Leadership Course are trained, developed, and inspired to give our seagoing warfighters the strength of spirit necessary to complete their missions with honor.”

Chaplains and religious program specialists (RP) play a role in helping the Department of the Navy achieve and maintain a ready force through the delivery of professional religious ministry and compassionate pastoral care. Chaplains and RPs are embedded within commands operating at sea and ashore to ensure 24/7 availability. They provide a source of comfort and refuge that enables service members and their families to practice and grow in their faith and to face personal and professional challenges.

“Navy chaplains encourage their shipmates to connect to the ultimate good and to a community that shares their convictions about what or who that good is,” said Varsogea. “Navy chaplains help people find the value, the meaning, and the purpose of their lives. Navy chaplains support people in their willingness to serve and sacrifice for the greater good.”

In the Basic Leadership Course, Navy chaplains learn to tailor religious ministry to life in the sea services, said Varsogea. They also learn how to facilitate the free exercise of religion for people of faiths other than their own. They learn service specific ways to care for all people and they learn how and when to render their best military advice.

“My favorite part about being a chaplain is that wherever the Navy, Marines or Coast Guard goes, you will find a unique and caring chaplain alongside those who serve,” said Pilat.

Pilat has many opportunities to achieve accomplishments during military service.

“My proudest accomplishment so far was when I overheard one junior sailor suggest to another junior sailor that the chaplain would be a great resource for whatever was going on in his life,” said Pilat. “That suggestion meant that I had been present, visible, helpful, kind and compassionate in previous interactions with my junior sailors. I am incredibly passionate about sailor resiliency, suicide prevention and advocating for all.”

Pilat takes pride in serving America through military service.

“Serving in the Navy is incredibly important to me,” said Pilat. “It means that I can take the love and acceptance that I feel from my God and my faith tradition, and share it with people that might never walk through the doors of my Episcopal Church. It is literally ‘ministry in the trenches’ with people who desperately need it.”