MARCH 2, 2017, GREAT LAKES (NNS) – When Sailors choose to become a recruit division commander who trains recruits at boot camp, they do not simply show up to Recruit Training Command and immediately put on a red rope signifying they are one — they first must spend 13 weeks working with the likes of Interior Communications Electrician 2nd Class Michael Marshalsea and the rest of the RDC “C” school staff.
The school is a 13-week-long, physically challenging, intensive hands-on training course which prepares prospective RDCs with the necessary skills, perspective and physical readiness to be an RDC. Upon reporting to RDC “C” school, students are assigned a qualified RDC mentor and split into classes of 15-50 students. There is one week of indoctrination and 12 weeks of curriculum and shadow time. The students wear blue ropes to signify they are in training.
As a “C” school instructor, Marshalsea helps lead the students in five phases of training which basically brings them right back through boot camp.
“It really is like boot camp for them because they are learning everything we teach recruits — everything down from marching around base in formations to learning how to properly fold and stow all the items the recruits receive,” said Marshalsea. “They’re learning every single thing the recruits do including enduring personnel and dynamic material inspections where they dress up in their Navy Working Uniforms (NWUs), just as the recruits do. Much of everything a recruit must do to pass boot camp, so must the ‘C’ school students.”
Marshalsea, an RDC himself, was determined to become one right from the beginning when he went through boot camp in 2007 and was influenced by his division’s chief petty officers and petty officers.
He arrived back to RTC in mid-2015 to become an RDC and trained, or “pushed,” five divisions during his first year. He is currently in the middle of his one-year hold from pushing which allows him to hold a facilitator job at RTC. He chose RDC “C” school so he can teach Sailors to become RDCs.
Marshalsea’s workday begins at 6 a.m. with an inspection of the students and then physical training. The students next split into classes in five phases of training: Indoctrination, Drill Phase, Star Phase, Administration Phase and the Leadership Phase.
He points out the similarities of training recruits and RDCs, though he believes the students tend to be more motivated than many recruits.
“Sure, you’ll have a good batch of recruits that are motivated and ready to go, but some of them are very timid,” said Marshalsea. “They don’t want to be yelled at and it’s their first time away from home, but with petty officers, chiefs and master chiefs that go through ‘C’ school, they’re a lot more motivated. There’s always a huge change from the first time they arrive here as far as their demeanor, their military bearing and professionalism. They know the positional authority I have over a student regardless of pay grade. There’s still that respect between the pay grades, but there’s still that positional authority as an instructor.”
While one class is learning how to properly fold uniforms and another is focused on the proper recording and updating of recruit divisional records or learning about leadership roles, Marshalsea also helps teach them how to march in formations. Regardless of their ranks, they must march just as they did when they were recruits.
“Whenever there’s some push-back from a student, I break it down to them that they are going to get the same feedback from their recruits because recruits do it all the time,” said Marshalsea. “The blue ropes’ and recruits’ reactions go almost hand in hand except for their time in the Navy, their experience and pay grade. Sometimes they act the same way in questioning why they have to learn something, and I explain that’s just the way it’s done and there’s no other way of doing it. This is the way we do it here at RTC.”
For many students, they balk at seeing items the recruits receive as opposed to when they were in boot camp, such as backpacks or especially the eSailor electronic tablet — which is part of a pilot program for select recruits. Marshalsea helps them understand the justification of electronics to help the students adapt as the Navy continually advances in technology.
“We’re in a very technological era where kids don’t go outside and play anymore as much as they’re inside playing on their iPad or video games,” said Marshalsea. “We have to adapt to what’s coming in. It’s not really them adapting to the Navy, it’s the Navy adapting to what society is bringing in; and society is bringing in these very technically knowledgeable recruits.”
One of the biggest aspects of being a “C” school instructor is physical training, as they must set the example to show the students how physically well-trained RDCs must be.
“They must get on par with their PT (physical training) because it’s nothing like they’ve ever experienced or prepared for,” said Marshalsea. “They have to do what they will instruct recruits to do. Some get injured and are either set back or get disqualified. It’s important to be prepared physically when deciding to become an RDC.”
While his workday may be done by 4 p.m., Marshalsea tends to stick around for mentoring students as he also serves as a “C” school counselor for the staff, as well. He’s hoping to eventually cross-rate to become a Navy counselor and offers sound advice to those contemplating becoming an RDC.
“It’s very difficult being an RDC,” said Marshalsea. “They need to look way deep down inside and ask themselves if this is something they really want to do, because this is not an easy job. Find a former RDC at your command right now that has already done this, and get their feedback.”
Marshalsea’s dedication to help fellow instructors excel in their board qualifications as well as within “C” school has proven him to be a valuable member of the RTC team.
“Marshalsea has proven his versatility and willingness to undertake any task to ensure mission accomplishment, and he has been instrumental throughout multiple facets of RTC’s mission,” said Senior Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Daniel Wiita, RDC ‘C’ school leading chief petty officer. “He has aggressively flexed to cover three vital collateral duties including departmental career counselor, RDC ‘C’ school PT, and hail and farewell coordinator. His pride and professionalism is model for others to emulate.”
Though difficult, Marshalsea claims the reward and experience of training Sailors to become RDCs and train recruits is unparalleled in the Navy, especially with time management and knowledge of the many Navy programs such as the Navy Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program.
“While we learn about these programs, it’s not something you might think about much in the fleet unless something happens,” said Marshalsea. “Here, not only do we have to teach about it, we also have to be experts on it because with the recruits coming in, you never know what their backgrounds might be. They can approach you, say something happened and then we need to know what the steps are that need to be taken to figure it out.”
After his one year of instructing is over, Marshalsea will return to training recruits for his remaining year. He takes pride in knowing he’s already had a positive impact on many RDC students.
“I remember one came up to me at ‘C’ school graduation, shook my hand and said, ‘Thank you.'” said Marshalsea. “‘As one of the instructors, a lot of the students in the class looked up to you and you gave a great example of what RTC is supposed to be like. You helped motivate our PT because you pushed us.’ Even if I’m still a petty officer second class going out to the fleet, I know that what I’ve done here. With the knowledge and leadership skills that I’ve gained, I’m going to be able to have a big impact not only on junior Sailors in general, but also petty officers and maybe even chiefs.”
By Susan Krawczyk, Recruit Training Command Public Affairs