“I put on a uniform one day and all of a sudden [enlisted soldiers] were saluting me,” CHS chemistry teacher Brad Krone said. “I didn’t know how to salute.”
In May of 1994, Krone was commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy but was honorably discharged after only two months of service.
“I had to do an application process,” Krone said. “I was commissioned into a chaplain candidate program to spend the summer as an officer in the Navy as a chaplain-in-training.”
The Chaplain Candidate Program Officer (CCPO) is a two-month long training program for those interested in becoming chaplains, or clergy members, in the Navy.
While in seminary, Krone heard about the program from a friend and decided to try it out. Krone was then accepted and sent to San Diego to meet the other chaplains-in-training whose ages ranged from 25 to 40.
For his two months, Krone was paid $3,000 — unlike other programs in which the military pays for education.
“The first day I got there I was very nervous. It’s such an unusual program. All of a sudden I am a lieutenant in the Navy,” Krone said.
“I [was] supposed to act like that because I had the uniform. We were all in the same boat.”
Unlike most recruits who are required to complete Basic Military Training (BMT), Krone spent his first month at Naval Base San Diego and his second month at Great Lakes Naval Base in Chicago, Illinois.
Throughout his early life, Krone dreamed of obtaining a job in the armed forces. However, nobody in his family had ever worked in the military.
“I always regretted that I never tried the military, that I didn’t enlist,” Krone said.
Krone was also interested in joining the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) in college.
“I think I would’ve been pretty good at it,” Krone said. “When I was in college there were guys in ROTC, I envied them.”
While taking part in CCPO, Krone was required to attend class to learn about the Navy. Similar to Krone, the majority of the other chaplains did not have a naval background. They were taught terminology, rankings and ship-life.
“They usually took us on a little field trip to an aircraft carrier [or] to the SEALS base,” Krone said.
Krone additionally traveled to the sick bay at the Marine Corps boot camp.
“[The] young 18-year-old kids were deer in the headlights,” Krone said. “They were clearly not prepared for what it was they were dealing with. They needed someone to talk to so they had us go in to talk with these guys.”
While talking with these soldiers, Krone learned that they were not allowed to use the words “I” or “me;” they were only allowed to say “this recruit.”
“We said, ‘how did you hurt yourself?’ ‘This recruit’s foot landed in a hole in the field,’” Krone said. “They had trained them not to use the word ‘I.’”
While on base, the trainees were required to participate in physical training. The group would run and lift weights even though some of the chaplains were not particularly interested in this.
The goal of a chaplain in the Navy is to promote the well-being, whether spiritual or personal, of the members of the Navy. The group Krone was with consisted of Jewish, Muslim, Catholic and Protestant chaplains.
“They allowed me to do pastoral things like counseling. At one point, the chaplain had me counsel a woman who was having marital problems,” Krone said. “I wasn’t even married; I was getting married in a couple months. I felt completely ill-equipped.” Young recruits would often come to Krone or one of the other chaplains for guidance because discussions between recruits and chaplains were always completely confidential.
Krone stands in front of a Boeing CH-47 Chinook.
“[Chaplains] serve a very important role,” Krone said. “It’s an important enough role that they actually brought us in and paid us, not even knowing if we would stick around.”
Krone also preached sermons and led worships on Sundays.
Krone did not only participate in spiritual activities; however, he also engaged in militaresque training.
Krone especially recalls being lowered down on a cable onto an aircraft carrier from a Chinook, or double bladed helicopter.
Even though Krone and the other chaplains-in-training were Second Lieutenants, they were not allowed to carry any weapons on the base.
“Even when [chaplains] are in combat, they don’t have a weapon,” Krone said. “As a chaplain, you’re there to keep peace.”
Despite all his time spent taking classes and counseling recruits, Krone did find time to socialize on base with his friends.
“I walked into a bar on the base with my baseball hat on. There was a sign that said, ‘Ye who enters covered will buy everyone a round of drinks,’” Krone said. “I didn’t know what [covered] meant. I walked in and a bell rings. Everyone looks at me and points and screams.” On a military base, being covered means to have a hat on. According to Krone, men cannot wear a hat indoors on a military base unless it is wartime.
“Don’t enter a space covered on a military base,” Krone said. “I had to buy everybody a round of drinks.”
Once Krone’s two months as a chaplain had passed, he had the option of serving in the Navy as a full-time chaplain or going home.
“Two days after the two months were over, I got married,” he said. “My wife was having a tough time imagining me being away for six months at a time. We decided not to pursue it any further.”
After being honorably discharged from the Navy, Krone went on to become a Youth Pastor in Reno, Nevada. After two years of preaching in Reno, Krone went back to school to become a teacher.
“I still look back at times and wish I had somehow made the military happen when I was younger,” Krone said.
23 years later, Krone still looks back on his stint in the navy fondly.
‘’It was really cool. I loved it. It was a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s just one of those things I decided not to continue.’’