"Sky pilots" is an old slang term for members of the military chaplain corps.
Chaplains were usually received direct commissions and were sent to Officer Indoctrination School. They berthed on the upper floor of King Hall in Newport, RI, over the floors assigned to OCS. OIS was pretty funny, as the students there marched in formation. They wore the ranks that they were commissioned into, ranging from ensigns to lieutenant commanders. When they marched, whoever was ordering the formation about (slang term was "driver") was under orders to salute all officers. It usually boggled the minds of the ensigns at Baby SWOS to receive salutes from lieutenants and lieutenant commanders, but that's the way it was.
Chaplains afloat were found on ships the size of cruisers and above, including tenders. They had one or two sailors to assist them, who were yeomen or personnelmen with the sub-designation of "chaplain's assistant". They got their own rate of "religious personnelman" (RP) in the late `70s, then became "religious programs specialist", or some shit like that. Navy chaplains also served the Marine Corps.
Chaplains weren't assigned to frigates and destroyers. Sometimes, a deploying task group would have a chaplain assigned to minister to all of the tin cans. That chaplain was supposed to spend a month or on each ship. On Sundays, if nothing overly intensive was going on, the chaplain would be ferried from ship to ship by the "Holy Helo", often a SH-2 or SH-3 that was on one of those ships. Those helo-ridering chaplains were typically sent out without RPs.
Chaplains were supposed to minister to all comers. Which meant that if there were a few Jews on a ship and Passover was coming up, it was the caplain's job to make it happen. On smaller ships without a chaplain, the senior person of each faith was given the collateral job of "lay religious leader" for that faith.
This is no shit: I was the Jewish lay leader for a ship. I was the only Jew aboard. So I had the word passed that "Services for the Jewish Sabbath will be held in Main Control." The XO went batshit. The CO thought it was funny.
This is also no shit: One of the helo-riding chaplains was such a worthless piece of shit that the first ship to host him got stuck with him, as none of the other ships would take him.Nobody on the first ship was very pleased about that. But they had to suck it up.
That ship was in port in Naples, Italy one fine summer afternoon. The chaplain was given a teletype radio message with his next set of orders. The orders were to the Marine Recruit Training Center in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
He was not pleased by the orders. He was less pleased at lunchtime when he walked into the wardroom; every officer stood up and began singing the Marine Corps Hymn.
The chaplain went to the navy base early the following morning to place a call to Washington to talk to his detailer. The detailer told him that the orders would not be changed, and that if he wanted to resign his commission, he was free to do so. The story was that he'd talk to his superiors in the church hierarchy, and was told that if he did resign his commission, he would be sent to a church that would make Camp Lejeune looks like New York City, in comparison.
He accepted his orders. Nobody that I knew of ever saw him again. We assumed that he was fragged and dumped in the swamp, somewhere.
Which was fine with everyone, for reasons that I'll tell another time.
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