A recruit division commander instructs recruits during their first night of boot camp in August in Great Lakes, Ill. The Navy needs hundreds more RDCs. (Colin Kelly / Staff)
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MILLINGTON, TENN. — If you’d like to up your chances to make chief — and oh, by the way, help the Navy at the same time — then you should consider a tour as a recruit division commander the next time you’re up for orders.
It’s an important job, and the Navy needs more of them. And the chances for advancing have been nearly double the fleetwide average.
Since 2010, about 32 percent of board-eligible E-6 RDCs have put on their chief’s anchors at Great Lakes or shortly after transferring, compared to the fleetwide average of 18 percent.
“A great majority of our RDCs are E-6s, and duty here can give them quite a bump when it comes time to go up for chief petty officer,” acknowledged Capt. John Dye, the head of the Navy’s Recruit Training Command.
With that in mind, it may be the hottest job right now for career-minded sailors.
Though advancement opportunity isn’t the only reason to take on RDC duty (a job officials say is not for everyone), it is some beautiful news at the end of 36 grueling months of work.
RDCs who successfully train nine divisions during their tour earn the Recruit Training Service Ribbon and can state their choice of which coast they want to go to for their next duty station. Plus, they earn special duty pay.
Demand is up
With the drawdown in the rear-view mirror, and the Navy recruiting more, the service is in need of more RDCs to push newbies from the street to the fleet.
Right now, RTC has more than 500 active-duty and 15 Reserve RDCs on its muster sheet — 82 short of the 601 it is authorized. Dye said he’s hopeful he’ll be up to full strength by early 2014, in time to help get nearly 3,000 new recruits up to speed.
Losing a third of his trainers every year, Dye said he needs 220 volunteers from the fleet now.
“We’ve been averaging about 39,000 active and Reserve sailors annually for the last few years,” he said. “But we’re looking at putting 44,000 through here next fiscal year.”
Dye doesn’t mince words about the duty, saying it’s tough and requires a certain kind of sailor to have a successful tour amid the long hours.
“If they’re considering coming here, they need to ask themselves one big question: ‘Do I have a high level of patience?’” he said. “In essence, you are leading civilians who don’t know anything about the Navy, who sometimes have to be told multiple times how to do something, and that can be very frustrating.”
In addition, he said, physical fitness is not only a requirement, it’s a necessity and probably the No. 1 reason sailors don’t survive the special duty.
“RDCs are significantly older when they get here from the fleet, and if they’re not physically fit, it can cause injuries that can take them out of the program,” Dye said.
To even qualify to apply for the duty, a sailor must have at least a “good (low)” score or higher in his age group for his last physical fitness assessment.
Because the standards are high, Dye says it’s important that commands carefully screen sailors for RDC duty and shouldn’t be afraid to say no if they don’t think a sailor meets the standards — or if they don’t think the sailor can handle the job.
“The tasks required are mentally, physically, and emotionally demanding and require proven self-discipline and imaginative problem-solving skills,” says Military Personnel Manual Article 1306-954, which outlays all the requirements for the job.