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For the first time in more than 20 years, the recruit staff division for the Navy’s only boot camp graduation consisted of all women.
While previously a division of all men performed the duties at the ceremony known as Pass-in-Review, the graduating women of Division 904 could be seen in the forefront Sept. 3, in Midway Ceremonial Drill Hall at Recruit Training Command (RTC).
Divisions typically consist of all men or integrated with men and women who train together but are housed in separate compartments within the barracks. In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic became more wide-spread, the need to separate the divisions into all men and all women was necessitated to better lessen the impact on training if divisions of recruits were quarantined.
“It is incredible to be able to still make history after adjusting operations to keep the safety of our recruits, Sailors, and their families a top priority while still meeting the mission of sending quality Sailors to the fleet,” said Capt. Jeff Sandin, RTC’s commanding officer. “The entire division did an outstanding job in the performance of all their duties.”
Two of the most prominent positions for the staff division are the recruit review commander (RC) and adjutant who lead the divisions during the ceremony by issuing commands while standing front and center. A great deal of scrutiny goes into choosing these positions including that of the RC, who is chosen based on their presentation, appearance, demeanor, voice volume and pronunciation, military bearing and how well they follow instructions.
“We usually pick the RPOC [Recruit Chief Petty Officer is the direct connection to the Recruit Division Commanders (RDC) by maintaining orders and the plan of the day] and AROC [Assistant Recruit Chief Petty Officer] and master-at-arms because those are the lead positions in a division, so we take those three and stick them in the position of the wedge,” explained Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Caleb Metz, drill hall staff unit instructor, referring to the triangle formed between the review commander’s and adjutants’ positions on the drill deck. “We let them know that this is an important role and they’re going to be leading the graduation.”
On Sept. 3, the graduates were led by Seaman Recruit Vivian Micono, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who served as the RC, and also performed with her division at the previous two ceremonies prior to their own.
“I was really excited even though I didn’t know what it meant because I’ve never seen a graduation before, but I knew it was a big deal,” said Micono, who found out herself exactly how big of a deal her position was once practice began. “It was confusing because we practiced just by ourselves and then having our first ceremony in front of the crowd and seeing all the parts come together was mind-blowing and it was a little nerve-wracking. After that first performance, I wasn’t worried anymore and seeing it all come together was totally worth it.”
Micono was also her division’s RPOC during their eight weeks of training and was also named the Military Excellence Award winner as the top recruit in the training group of 861 graduates.
Backing her up at graduation were Seaman Recruit Katelyn Coffman, of Conis, Indiana, who served as adjutant and Seaman Recruit Anna Bergh, of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, who served as assistant adjutant.
The recruit staff unit also is comprised of the side boys, time orderly, boatswain, support recruits, wardroom staff and rail guards.
Seaman Recruit Alexis Breck, of Buhl, Idaho, was chosen as the quarterdeck watch who greets the official party and VIP guests as they enter drill hall prior to the ceremony. The position requires great military bearing and confidence while maintaining professionalism and military courtesy.
“I knew I would be greeting officers, I just wasn’t totally for sure if it would be a whole bunch of officers or two or three, so it was kind of nerve-wracking when a captain walked in with another captain,” said Breck. “I take a lot of pride in being selected to a performing division and this is a big accomplishment. My mother and first-grade teacher will be in attendance, too!”
Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Joe Flores, Recruit Division Commander (RDC) for Div. 904, initially expected to run into difficulties with his all-women recruits but claimed their training went exceptionally smooth.
“They learned really fast and picked up everything quickly and we had no issues,” said Flores. “Micono kind of just took to her leadership position as she has a rare trait where people want to follow her.”
Another RDC from the division, Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Swen Erickson, stated it was surprising how quickly the division bonded and worked together as they easily took direction from such a strong leader.
“It wasn’t apparent to her from the beginning that the division wanted to follow her,” said Erickson. “After we told her that and it became apparent the whole division was awaiting for her word and everything else just clicked. As for the division as a whole, they saw the staff division prior to them who did a fine job. Upon getting to the drill hall, the women wanted to bring it to the next level and really set the standard for the rest of the staff divisions that come through.”
Metz agrees the women went well above what was anticipated from their performances and duties.
“While the expectation is the same whether they are men or women in a division, I feel the women work harder and take a little more pride in what they do,” said Metz. “When we told them this is the first division of all women, I think that sense of pride and accomplishment came along with it, so they really wanted to prove that they were the best and they really hit the mark on everything we had them do.”
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 train annually at the Navy’s only boot camp.
For more news from Recruit Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/rtc