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The coronavirus (COVID-19) has been the bane of many activities in 2020, and Navy Recruiting has not been immune. With shipping dates for some recruits being rescheduled to those who make it to Recruit Training Command (RTC) in North Chicago, Illinois, having to begin their boot camp experience with a stay at Fort McCoy, a U.S. Army training center in western Wisconsin, for a 14-day restriction of movement (ROM) period, the Navy is adjusting its practices.
Throughout the medical crisis, Navy Recruiting Command had to continue to attract future Sailors to keep a constant and steady flow of men and women trained and ready to man the ships, aircraft, and submarines at the forefront of our nation's security. Navy Talent Acquisition Group (NTAG) Southwest is doing its part to keep recruiting the future Sailors of Naval Special Warfare/Naval Special Operations (NSW/NSO).
Chief Navy Diver James Asmussen, NTAG Southwest NSW/NSO coordinator, said, "Initially COVID did negativity affect our ability to conduct Physical Screening Test (PST) events and limited our ability to award contracts to those in DEP (Delayed Entry Program). Since May, we have been administering the PST with COVID mitigation steps in place and have had zero known cases to date.”
In fact, with the help of six NSW/NSO scouts, like Construction Electrician 1st Class Garrett Price in Las Vegas, the program is seeing a higher than average positive candidate PST pass rate.
"I have seen a higher number of future Sailors put in more time and effort into passing the PST since I have been a scout," said Price.
NTAG Southwest Chief Recruiter, Master Chief Navy Counselor Jayson Whalen, is very proud of the NSW/NSO program's turnaround.
“A year ago, many believed the Warrior Challenge Program goals were too high to achieve here in San Diego,” said Whalen. “Then COVID hit, and even more people thought, with all the restrictions, there would be no way to make this mission. Chief Asmussen and his team made some course adjustments and are now firing on all cylinders, consistently making this mission. They’ve inspired the next generation of the world’s most elite warriors to serve their country despite staring down the invisible enemy during this national pandemic.”
Currently, the graduation rate for the Navy's Sea, Air and Land Forces (SEAL) School is less than 80 percent due to a drop-off in quotas for replacements. Also, candidates must be prepared for the possibility of not gaining a competitive PST score, as roughly only a third of all who pass the physical test will be awarded a contract before shipping to RTC.
NTAG Southwest NSW/NSO Mentor Joe Fuller, a retired Navy SEAL, talked about the mindsets of individuals who have the best chance to make it through the training.
"A winning characteristic we are seeking is the ability to work within a team well," said Fuller. "Good self-discipline, motivation to excel in making themselves better as well as displaying a warrior mindset is in order. Candidates should demonstrate a 'selfless' mentality that puts their fellow teammates' welfare before the welfare of themselves. Additionally, if a recruit is interested in being a member of the Navy Special Operating Forces is to do it because they want to and not for someone other than themselves. If they are doing it for someone else, they will normally washout or, at a minimum, not do well or retain a positive attitude or work ethic once in their team.”
According to Asmussen, recruits should be aware of all aspects of the five ratings and the benefits of each. "They need to prepare themselves for a physically demanding profession and the mental capacity it takes to excel and operate within the NSW/NSO community.”
Fuller added, “All candidates should be comfortable in the water and working within small groups such as teams, platoons or squads. They should keep in mind and know that attention to detail is always paramount.”
The NSW/NSO Program consists of five programs: SEAL (SO – Special Warfare Operator); SB (Special Boats Combatant Crewman-Crewwoman); Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD); ND (Navy Diver) and AIRR (Aviation Rescue Swimmer). Each program consists of graduated score requirements when conducting the PST with the most challenging demands in the SO program.
Being next to a large fleet concentration in San Diego, as well as being the home of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) school, is an advantage for the NTAG Southwest NSW/NSO recruiting team.
“Because of the location of the SEAL, SWCC (Special Warfare Combat Craft Crewmen) Teams, and the Naval Special Warfare Training Center (NSWTC) being in Coronado, there is more SO interest,” said Fuller. “We routinely have candidates either visiting or moving to the San Diego area to work with our local boat crews and be in an environment that is ‘closer to the fire.’”
Asmussen did mention a challenge NTAG Southwest has which other recruiting regions do not.
"Because of being so close to NSWTC, I believe the challenge we face is getting new candidates interested in non-SO rates and being informed of the other four ratings," said Asmussen. "Getting more information to the public about the other four programs within the NSW/NSO umbrella would be most prudent. I believe a targeted advertising message is needed, and it is something we are working on.”
The adjustment to operating during the COVID-19 pandemic means adhering to guidance outlined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to help mitigate the spreading of illnesses to preserve force health protection. NTAG Southwest’s NSW/NSO program is doing all it can to keep on mission and provide as many future viable applicants as possible.
Established in January 1975 as Navy Recruiting District San Diego, newly redesignated Navy Talent Acquisition Group (NTAG) Southwest encompasses 210,000 square miles covering Arizona, Nevada, and Southern California. NTAG Southwest has three Talent Acquisition Onboarding Centers – TAOC Fleet City, TAOC Surf City, and TAOC Paradise City. Headquartered at Naval Base Point Loma, NTAG Southwest has more than 50 recruiting stations in the tri-state region and employs more than 300 recruiters, support personnel and civilians.
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