GREAT LAKES, IL, UNITED STATES --
For the first time in history, III Marine Expeditionary Force sponsored a U.S. Navy boot camp division as part of the recruit division sponsorship program at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Illinois, providing mentorship from their first day to their graduation on Aug. 26, 2022.
The division sponsorship program allows commands to support boot camp divisions throughout their rigorous eight- week transformation from civilians to U.S. Navy Sailors.
“The sponsorship program was developed due to the high interest by military and civilian organizations to learn about the recruit training command, provide mentorship to recruits, and be a part of the Sailorization process,” said Senior Chief Carl Haydysch, a Recruit Services Officer and Sponsorship Coordinator. “Sponsorship develops a special bond between recruit divisions and military or civilian organizations. Mentorship and direct contact from these entities enhances basic training and provides a unique learning experience for recruits and sponsoring groups.”
Sponsoring commands are highly encouraged to be present at key events such as Battle Stations, a 12-hour culminating event that leads to the capping ceremony where recruits receive Navy ball caps to replace their recruit caps, and finally, the pass-in-review graduation ceremony.
III MEF Command Master Chief Curtis Blunt traveled from Okinawa, Japan to tour RTC facilities, interact with recruits, and provide mentorship to the Navy’s newest sailors. The graduates of Division 263 were given the opportunity to speak to Blunt and ask questions about life as a Sailor and working alongside Marines with III MEF.
“Navy and Marine Corps Integration should start at the very lowest levels; and I could not think of a better place than Recruit Training Command.” III MEF Command Master Chief Curtis Blunt
“RTC San Diego was 35 years ago for me, but I definitely would have liked to speak to someone that was not a [recruit division commander],” said Blunt. “I spoke to [the recruits]as I would any other Sailor or Marine that I serve with today. From the very start I ensured that no topic was off limits. I believe it motivated them to speak to someone out in the fleet.”
“Navy and Marine Corps Integration should start at the very lowest levels; and I could not think of a better place than Recruit Training Command,” said Blunt. “About 10-15% of the Sailors in our sponsored division will become [hospital corpsmen] or [religious program specialists]. Sailors like to receive as much information as possible, as soon as possible, and any interaction with someone in the fleet will be a building block in their career.”
Photo by Chief Petty Officer Brandie Nix
Command Master Chief Curtis Blunt, command master chief, III Marine Expeditionary Force, speaks to recruits inside a compartment of the USS John F. Kennedy recruit barracks during his visit to Recruit Training Command. III MEF, headquartered in Okinawa, Japan, is sponsoring a recruit division, Division 263, for the first time in its history. More than 40,000 recruits train annually at the Navy's only boot camp.
Seaman Benjamin J. Rutledge of Grove City, Ohio, a graduate of Division 263, explained how being sponsored by III MEF and carrying the sponsored flag at the head of his division had the recruits holding their heads a little higher with pride.
“Being sponsored had a huge impact on not just myself, but our whole division,” said Rutledge, who was also named the top Sailor in his training group of 909 graduates. “When Command Master Chief visited us and spoke about how much he loved his job and being in the Navy, that was something we needed to hear from someone outside of boot camp. He even sat with us at chow and was asking us what our life’s plans were. He was super inspiring with his advice. That was one moment that will stand out for me in boot camp, talking with master chief.”
The sentiment was shared by Blunt, whose visit with the Navy’s newest Sailors left him invigorated.
“They left me feeling like our Navy will be in great hands well after I’m out of uniform,” said Blunt. “It was especially inspiring that Division 263 was integrated [male and female], a reminder to me that our military is a place of opportunity for anyone that desires to serve their Nation. I believe that there is at least one future general, admiral, [sergeant major] or [command master chief] within every recruit division or company; it’s our job as fleet Sailors to do everything we can to motivate them, and if III MEF sponsorship helped just one Sailor reach a goal, then it was worth our efforts.”
III MEF’s goal is to sponsor a RTC division yearly, continuing to indoctrinate recruits into the Navy and Marine Corps team mindset.
“There is no better example of teamwork than the Navy-Marine Corps team,” said RTC Command Master Chief Nicholas Wallace. “Throughout our history there hasn’t been a conflict where this team hasn’t demonstrated some form of teamwork. While every Sailor may not have the privilege to serve alongside our Marine counter parts, RTC strives to instill teamwork in every new Sailor that graduates boot camp. Shifting the mindset of ‘doing something for themselves’ to ‘doing something to support the Team' is critical. This mind shift to working as a team not only supports the Navy, but also spills over into the role the Navy plays in joint warfare.”