An Opportunity to Shape the Navy
Chief Navy Counselor Keisha Kelly changes lives.
At her first recruiting station, for example, she met two siblings. They were smart kids in a bad situation, struggling financially and caring for a sick mother. Kelly went out of her way to help them enlist in the Navy. Now, they're both first class petty officers.
"When you have these conversations with people in your community and you listen to some of the stories, you want to help," said Kelly, an instructor at the Navy Recruiting Orientation Unit (NORU) in Pensacola, Florida. "You want to give them the opportunity to do something different, something great that they have never done before. As a recruiter, you get to do that every single day."
It's different than serving in the fleet, but satisfying, she said.
After back-to-back deployments, working in stressful and competitive environments, and spending time away from family, Sailors have the opportunity to pick a shore duty. One "Shore Special Program" is becoming a recruiter like Kelly. Recruiting is for people who like to develop and mentor people. Recruiters help prepare civilians for basic training. They shape the future of the Navy and learn skills that can be applied later in their careers. The field actually has many benefits, including a flexible schedule and the ability to go home to family every day.
In order to become recruiters, Sailors must complete a five-week course at the NORU. It forces Sailors out of their comfort zones while teaching the fundamentals of recruiting future Sailors into the United States Navy.
Upon arrival, future recruiters complete a week of indoctrination and meet basic Navy requirements, such as learning the chain of command, operational stress control and active shooter training.
In week 1 of the course, Sailors learn sales. This consists of trying to "sell" the Navy, perfecting communications skills, dealing with different types of customers, asking the proper questions and determining how the Navy's various opportunities and advantages fit each applicant.
Week 2 is focused on finding prospects, how to approach them and how to handle rejection.
Sailors are taught the recruiting manual in week 3. This covers who is eligible to join, what programs they qualify for and what waivers are necessary.
In week 4, Sailors learn about the requirements for the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) and how to properly mentor future Sailors.
The capstone event, also held during week 4, requires future recruiters to demonstrate their new skills, such as giving a mock high school presentation about the Navy or holding a DEP meeting.
Toward the end of the course, the graduating class also comes together to create a chant.
"We like the chants because it cultivates teamwork and it brings them all together, but it also brings a lot of motivation," said Master Chief Navy Counselor Gerald Allchin, chief recruiter and senior enlisted leader at NORU. "There's nothing more motivating than showing up Monday morning and hearing these classes do their chants and doing the Sailor's Creed and being motivated. We hope that they can take this motivation and excitement about the Navy out to the field and apply that when they're out there recruiting."
Sailors receive recruiting badges when they graduate.
"They've made it through these five weeks of grueling classes that they go through," said Kelly, "and it's an accomplishment at the end for them to be able to wear their recruiting badges."
Once newly minted Navy counselors reach their recruiting stations, they are able to earn gold wreaths for their badges after obtaining four contracts within three months, or three contracts that have scored over 50 on the Armed Forces Qualification Test. Badges get upgraded when recruiters receive their 10th, 20th, 25th and 30th gold wreath awards.
These awards can help recruiters promote. In fact, there are lots of advancement opportunities in the field. The Meritorious Advancement Program, for example, is an opportunity for counselors who maintain excellent performance standards and are top recruiters in their stations.
The top recruiters typically are professional, ethical, and dedicated, the chiefs agreed. They're also open enough to talk to others about their experiences. All of these characteristics apply elsewhere in the Navy and in life.
"Everything that we teach here, you're going to carry back to the fleet," said Chief Navy Counselor Carolyn Masino, senior instructor and course manager for the officer recruiting course at NORU. "You're going to be able to teach your junior Sailors things you didn't know before recruiting. You learn so many programs that you can use for your future career. It will help you be a better leading petty officer and chief down the road."
Those aren't the only advantages. Recruiters will also be able to shape the future of the Navy by influencing the quality and kinds of Sailors that it has.
"Everybody should want to go recruiting because you're helping build the future of the Navy," said Allchin. "When I look at all of the great things that the Navy has done for me, it's only natural for me to want to go back, whether it's to my hometown community or any community, and look at people that are similar to myself when I was younger that needed an opportunity to flourish. Being a recruiter enables you to go do that."
Editor's Note: To learn more about how to become a recruiter, click here. To contact the Navy Recruiting Orientation Unit, visit its webpage or Facebook page. As of Oct. 1, 2018, NORU is now called the Navy Recruiting Leadership Academy (NRLA).