From Builder to Building Careers

Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Brianna Green, NAVFAC EURAFCENT

When joining the U.S. Navy, there are a plethora of rates to choose from, but a Navy Counselor is not one of them because a Command Career Counselor serves as the critical link between a Sailor, their command and supporting Navy organizations. Being a Career Counselor requires knowledge and experience that can only be gained by wearing a uniform longer than boot camp and “A” school. The person who wears the circular Navy Career Counselor “cookie” on their uniform, has cross-rated from another rate into this important role. They must understand most administrative tools in the Navy like advancement and promotion, pay and benefits, career assignment and planning, retirement and separation, education, training and much more.

Builder 2nd Class Kiara Harris, of Seattle, Washington, assigned to the Public Works Department aboard NSA Naples, is submitting a package to join the knowledgeable and helpful Navy Career Counselor community.

Builder 2nd Class Kiara Harris, from Seattle, Washington, assigned to the Public Works Department Naples, responds to questions during a cross examination board to become a Navy Counselor. Four Navy Counselors from Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Naples, Naval Support Activity Naples, U.S. Naval Hospital Naples and the Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Europe Africa Central (EURAFCENT) cross examine Harris. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brianna K. Green)

“Everyone goes through a different experience, but the general process is the same,” said Navy Counselor 1st Class Pedro Samame, of Miami, Florida, assigned to the Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Europe Africa Central (EURAFCENT). “You need a minimum ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery), you have to work on the command career development team for 12 months, you need to pass a group of interviews and get endorsed by your chain of command all the way up to the TYCOM (Type Commander).”

However, throughout the process Harris has been constantly motivated, said Samame. She went from a divisional to assistant command level position, and that determination and passion for her Sailors are two characteristics needed to be a successful Navy Counselor.

The hardest part was being behind a computer and learning to counsel people on what’s best for their career, said Harris. Coming from the Seabee community, she was trained on how to rip apart building and put it back together but counseling deals with a person’s future, and it’s much more complicated – especially with so many options.

After serving on the team for eight months, the group interview was scheduled for February 5th with four other Navy Counselors in the Naples area.

“The week leading up to this part, I was freaking out,” said Harris. “I was beating myself up by thinking ‘there is no way I know anything.’”

In contrast to most oral boards for personal qualification standards (PQS), this one was more productive, said Samame. Unlike an Enlisted Surface Warfare Device board, this one was more conversational.

“Our field of work is about sitting with Sailors and trying to get our point across,” said Samame. “It’s part of our Soul to sit down and discuss topics, and it’s more productive to discuss the details and explain the little differences of each command.”

Over the course of a couple hours, Builder 2nd Class Harris received several real-life examples on how to handle different situations.

“I converted as a UT2 (Utilitiesman -another Seabee rate) out of an OCONUS (Outside Continental United States) NAVFAC Command like BU2, so there was some nostalgia to the process when I went through it,” said Chief Navy Counselor David Bailey, of Oaklawn, Illinois, Command Career Counselor aboard NSA Naples. “Being on that side of the table means we needed to talk about the communities she may not be familiar with and gauge how successful she could be in an aviation squadron or surface vessel.”

At the end of the day we all wear U.S. Navy on our uniforms, said Bailey. To have the majority of the Navy Counselors in the Naples area show up and help one of their own in a moment’s notice, speaks volumes about the community BU2 is working to be accepted in.

After the oral board, Harris was endorsed by four Navy Career Counselors. She is working towards her endorsement package from her Command, and will find out this fall if she is accepted. Also, she will be going underway for a week for the first time in her six-year Naval Career this March aboard the Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC20) in order to gain a little experience on the waterfront.

“I want to make sure Sailors get the best (advice) and make the best decisions, and they’re knowledgeable about their Navy Career,” said Harris. “It’s not just knowing what the recruiters told you, it’s important to know everything else that comes behind it. A lot of people are not aware of their records and benefits and other incentives out there waiting for them.”

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