I've gotten many inquiries from individuals inquiring to the process of becoming a chaplain of Buddhist faith in the U.S. military. I'd like to post some basic requirements here, that are based on military requirements (which also can be found here: http://www.ncmaf.org/chaplain.htm). Hopefully you will be able to get good information!
•Bachelors and Masters Degrees
Most Buddhist clergy are not required to have academic degrees to be ordained; however, this is a must for ALL United States military chaplains. A bachelors degree typically involves 120 semester hours or 180 quarter hours and a graduate degree 72 credit hours in an accredited institution. Not less than 36 hours must be in theological/ministry and related studies, consistent with the respective religious tradition of the applicant (Buddhism in this case). A graduate degree in Buddhist Studies would be highly recommended.
Together with the graduate degree requirement, this is also a potential obstacle for many applicants. Ordination means recognition that you are considered clergy in your particular Buddhist tradition. This does not include lay teacher status. The number of years you have practiced Buddha-dharma as a layperson also cannot be considered as qualifying for ordained status. You MUST be ordained AS a clergyperson. A big plus is at least two years' experience in a religious environment, as a temple minister, or monastic, for example. The US Armed Forces cannot ordain people, and the Buddhist Churches of America cannot ordain in the Jodo Shinshu tradition solely for purposes of chaplaincy. It is UP TO YOU to find a track to ordination.
• Endorsement from the Buddhist Churches of America
The Buddhist Churches of America is the ONLY recognized endorser for Buddhist U.S. military chaplains. An official form known as a DD2088 - Statement of Ecclesiastical Endorsement - is signed by our abbot. Without this signed endorsement, you cannot become a military chaplain. Receiving a signed DD2088 is dependent on whether you can demonstrate completion of a Master’s Degree program and provide proof of ordination from an authentic Buddhist tradition. A personal interview will also be required.
• US Citizenship, Security Background Check, and Age Limits
These are requirements of all service branches (Army, Navy, and Air Force). The age limit is usually in the early forties by the time of commissioning, but there may be age waivers on a case-by-case basis. This may be determined by the branch of service, and your chaplain recruiter.
• Physical Condition
The military is a very demanding physical and mental environment. You will have to pass a physical exam as part of your chaplain application package. There are yearly physical tests you will have to pass (runs, pushups, situps, pull-ups), and the expectation is that you will physically exercise frequently on your own, and with your command, as a group (even in the Air Force)! Also, you will definitely be going on overseas deployments, which may involve living aboard a naval warship, or living in the field for months on end. If you have any physical conditions that cannot permit you to do this, military chaplaincy may not be a good choice for you.
• Ability to Work in the Deparment of Defense(DoD)Directed Religious Accommodation Environment
What this means is that all military chaplains by necessity work in an interfaith environment, and may not discriminate or proselytize (although unfortunately these are certainly known to happen). What "ability to work" means is that you will very frequently encounter and work with non-Buddhists: can you work with Christians every day, even having a Christian – or Jewish or Muslim - chaplain as your boss? As a chaplain, you will definitely counsel people of other faiths, or no religious affiliation. Most people will look at you as a spiritual person, a chaplain, whether they are Christian or Wiccan (which there are many of in the military). This also means encountering Buddhists from traditions different from your own, even ones you may personally disagree with. However, your purpose as a chaplain is to provide for the free exercise of religion - it is not to convince a Soka Gakkai Buddhist that his/her teaching is false and that Theravada Buddhism is the real deal, or vice versa, for example. You may have disagreements but you may not try to convert or proselytize yourself, anymore than it is ethical for Christian chaplains to try to convert the Buddhists in their command. Military chaplaincy is genuine interfaith work. In addition, being a military chaplain means working IN a military environment, not outside of it. Living in a military environment 24/7 means participating in the culture and camaraderie of military life, as well as dealing with the annoying illogicities that also are part of military life! As a military officer also, you support the mission of your command.
Again, these requirements are NOT established by the Buddhist Churches of America, but by the Department of Defense. There aren't any special exemptions for Buddhists; these are guidelines that Christian, Jewish, and Muslim chaplain applicants also have to follow. For anyone who meets these requirements and would like to apply to become a chaplain, the first step would be to contact a chaplain recruiter, which can be done by going to one of these sites.
Navy/Marines/Coast Guard: http://www.navy.com/careers/officer/clergy
Air Force: http://www.airforce.com/careers/job.php?catg_id=1%E2%8A%82_catg_id=3&af_job_id=314