GREAT LAKES (NNS) -- Long before either of them arrived at Recruit Training Command (RTC), Capt. Jeffry Sandin helped make it possible for Hull Maintenance Technician 1st Class Ali Tolinos to earn advancement and extend his Navy career.
Tolinos, a Recruit Division Commander (RDC), is now helping Navy recruits begin their careers at RTC, where Sandin recently became the commanding officer. Tolinos’ gateway to RTC, the Navy’s only boot camp, was through the Active Duty Enlisted Advancement-to-Position (A2P) program.
The A2P program offers active duty second class petty officers the opportunity to advance to first class petty officer by filling priority billets and successfully completing any required training or schools. The program is intended to improve fleet readiness and manning through better distribution of personnel.
Candidates are selected for A2P billets on a competitive basis. They have to take the most recent E-6 Navy rating exam and have a record of sustained superior performance.
On March 12, 2020, Tolinos graduated from RDC “C” School and advanced to first class petty officer, becoming RTC’s first A2P program graduate.
“Many people try to apply for it, but they don’t meet all the criteria to make it,” Sandin said. “To get somebody to apply for it and be accepted is a pretty big deal.”
Tolinos has served in the Navy for 17 years and said he was facing high-year tenure for the third time in his career when he received his orders to RTC and acceptance into the A2P program.
It was the first time Tolinos considered becoming an RDC.
“It wasn’t even on the radar,” he said. “I was still hoping I could make first class by my tests. I’d come up shy by a few points. I was trying. I just couldn’t make the quota.”
Tolinos said he would have run out of time without the A2P program opportunity.
Permanently established on Oct. 7, 2019, the A2P program was advanced by Sandin, who was then Navy Personnel Command (NPC) Director of Enlisted Distribution. He credits his NPC staff for developing a program that provides a pathway to become an RDC or fill other demanding first class petty officer billets and earn advancement.
“There was an A2P program graduate in each of my first four weekly “C” School graduations,” said Sandin, who took command at RTC in May. “It showed there were people taking interest in the program and people benefiting from the program. I was just coming out of [NPC], where I was trying to sell that and I saw here on the recipient side that it’s working.”
Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Quincy O’Bryant, who was pinned by Sandin during a “C” School graduation ceremony July 8, is the most recent of nearly two dozen A2P Sailors to earn their red rope and become an RDC.
“The A2P program helped get me to the point I felt I was at already,” O’Bryant said. “With the responsibilities I took, even prior to being here at Great Lakes, A2P put me in the position as far as rank goes. I’ve always held myself to a standard higher than was expected and the program puts you where you deserve to be.”
O’Bryant has embraced one of the Navy’s most arduous and difficult assignments and is ready for the challenge.
“The A2P program itself is absolutely a blessing, especially for this billet,” O’Bryant said. “There are other billets that have this program as well, but I chose this one mainly because I knew it would be a challenge. I didn’t want to just be given something – I came here to actually work for it.”
The A2P program has become an important tool in helping RTC attract distinguished Sailors to train the future of the Navy.
“Getting Sailors and their families up to RTC Great Lakes is not an easy chore from a detailing perspective,” Sandin said. “Just communicating that effectively out to the fleet, saying ‘Hey, we need good quality staff members, is not enough.’ So when those opportunities become available, and there’s a billet here at Great Lakes that somebody can jump on, and get promoted once they’ve completed RDC “C” School, or instructor school, that’s a big win for us.”
It’s also been a big win for the Sailors like Tolinos, who did five division pushes on the front end of his tour at RDC.
“When it’s all said and done, I know I’ll be proud,” Tolinos said. “For 10-15 years, you accept everything the Navy gives you, and then it’s your chance to give back and train somebody to replace you somewhere down the road. I can see how beneficial that is and how it’s fulfilling as a career. I’ll look back and take pride in being an RDC.”
Boot camp is approximately eight weeks and all enlistees into the U.S. Navy begin their careers at the command. Training includes physical fitness, seamanship, firearms, firefighting and shipboard damage control along with lessons in Navy heritage and core values, teamwork and discipline. More than 40,000 recruits are trained annually at RTC and begin their Navy careers.
For more news from Recruit Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/rtc/
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