For many who join the armed services, the swearing-in ceremony is the proudest moment of their lives. Twenty Future Sailors had the unique opportunity to share their special moment with millions of people watching nationwide as Rear Adm. Jeffrey Hughes, commander, Navy Recruiting Command, presided over their enlistment ceremony during the annual Army vs. Navy college football game in Baltimore, Dec. 10.
During the swearing-in ceremony, the presiding officer asks the enlistee to raise their right hand and recite the Oath of Enlistment.
"It is a tremendous privilege and opportunity to be asked to deliver the Oath of Enlistment to these Future Sailors," said Hughes. "Being on the field of this storied rivalry between two of America's greatest institutions and swearing-in these recruits was a truly phenomenal experience and it really makes me proud to be part of this extraordinary family that we know as the United States Navy."
Every year Navy Recruiting District (NRD) Philadelphia selects Future Sailors from its district that covers areas of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland to take part in the ceremony at the Army vs. Navy game.
NRD Philadelphia's Chief Petty Officer Michael Robinson served as the chief escort for 20 Future Sailors selected to swear-in. As part of tradition, the ceremony takes place after the first time-out in the 3rd quarter of every Army vs. Navy game.
When the moment came, Robinson and four of the district's recruiters marched the Future Sailors onto the goal line at one end of the field. For Robinson, it was his first time being a chief escort representing NRD Philadelphia.
"It's a great honor to be the host NRD that participates and allows the approximately 60,000 audience members to see and witness who these Future Sailors are that are willing to serve their country," said Robinson. "If the ceremony inspires others to join, then that's great. If it just inspires, then that's just as great."
Months before the Army vs. Navy game takes place, NRD Philadelphia's recruiters gather names of Future Sailors who can serve as primaries and alternates for the ceremony. The NRD then arranges for transportation, uniforms, a rehearsal and meeting times for its Future Sailors. Over several weeks and up to the last minute, changes and issues can and often take place.
"I think the logistical challenge is immense; however, the coordination among the recruiters, our headquarters, Commander, Navy Recruiting Command (CNRC), and the staff at the stadium allowed us to pull this ceremony off without a hitch," said Robinson. "The Future Sailors were excited and eager to perform at their best."
Twenty-one year-old Jonathan Lee Gilbert, an electrician apprentice from Shillington, Pennsylvania, was one of the Future Sailors who swore in.
"It was an amazing experience," said Gilbert. "I was a bit nervous but I wouldn't trade away the experience for
anything. It's pretty special that only about 20 of us in the entire nation get to do this once a year."
Gilbert also explained why he decided to join the Navy.
"I joined when I realized that the Navy could offer me job security and an outside family bond that you can't get anywhere else," said Gilbert. "You'll also be able to provide for your own family in the future. There are endless opportunities you can have with the Navy as long as you're willing to work for them."
The Future Sailors who swore in also received tickets to watch the entire game, which took place this year at M&T Stadium in Baltimore. NRD Philadelphia had several of its Sailors volunteering in and outside the stadium at Navy virtual experience recruiting assets, engaging with those in attendance before and during the game.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Sarge, a volunteer for the game and recruiter from NRD Philadelphia, brought five Future Sailors to the game. He also helped escort the Sailors onto the field for the ceremony. The overall experience was a first for Sarge.
"I had a blast volunteering! I loved being out and spreading Navy awareness," said Sarge. "It was an amazing experience talking to the folks that were in the service or just there to support. People enjoyed our presence. We were professional and energetic, and they seemed to enjoy our recruiting assets a ton!"
Although the outcome of the match was a victory for the Army's Black Knights, ending the Navy Midshipmen's 14 game win streak in one of the nation's most recognized and storied college football rivalries, the Sailors of NRD Philadelphia and the Future Sailors they brought with them represented one aspect of the game that is always an undeniable win.