NC1 Rydberg Earns Top Navy Recruiting Accolade For 2020
by U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Joshua Keim
January 9, 2021
It hardly bears repeating that 2020 was a challenging year fraught with adversity. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and despite the difficult conditions, Navy recruiters charged forward combing the job market to find the next generation of Sailors because the nation needs them.
In the face of such obscure complexity, Navy Counselor 1st Class (NC1) Paul Rydberg, a recruiter assigned to Navy Talent Acquisition Group (NTAG) Houston, met the challenge head on with old-fashioned hard work and tenacity to make the most of 2020’s fleeting opportunities.
By year’s end, Rydberg had been selected as the national (Active Component) Enlisted Recruiter of the Year (EROY) for Navy Recruiting Command (NRC); Enlisted Nuclear ROY for NRC Region West; Naval Special Warfare/Naval Special Operations (NSW/NSO) ROY; and, Division Three ROY for NTAG Houston.
He also clinched the coveted Centurion Award. To qualify for the Centurion Award, a recruiter must net at least 100 new contracts in one tour of recruiting and, to offer some perspective, only four NTAG Houston recruiters have reached that milestone in at least the last seven years.
December 28, 2020 - Navy Counselor 1st Class Paul Rydberg displays some of his recruiting accolades from fiscal year 2020. Rydberg was selected as the Enlisted Recruiter of the Year (EROY) for Navy Recruiting Command (NRC), Nuclear EROY for NRC Region West, Naval Special Warfare/Naval Special Operations EROY and Division Three EROY for Navy Talent Acquisition Group Houston, and earned the rare Centurion Award, among other awards and titles.(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Joshua Keim)
After more than a decade as a hospital corpsman (HM) in the Navy Reserve, Rydberg joined active duty in 2016 and began recruiting two years later with one purpose in mind – to prove his worth. When asked about the secret to his success in recruiting, he offered a simple yet revealing response.
“I had to prove myself coming from the Reserve, so I just came to work every day, hit multiple recruiting pillars each day, and was willing to do what I thought other recruiters weren’t,” Rydberg said. “You can’t just come to work and only make phone calls, only send text messages, or only [make personal appearances with potential recruits]. You have to hit all three of those pillars each and every day. You have to make the evening appointments, make the Saturday appointments even when it’s not mandatory, and meet with parents when they can’t make it to the office. I’m usually the first one here and the last one to leave,” and that’s what it took for me to succeed, he added.
Rydberg’s work ethic and enthusiasm for the job made a noticeable impact at the command early on, and his commitment quickly caught the attention of NTAG Houston leadership. Cmdr. Mary C. Decker, commanding officer of NTAG Houston, described his 2020 performance as “phenomenal and astonishing.”
“Here in Houston, we call him ‘the machine,’” Decker said. “The first time I met NC1 Rydberg was at monthly training in his station. What struck me about him was how knowledgeable he was ... and how he delivered the training with ease. He makes it his business to be a subject matter expert, and he is a true professional. Having a recruiter like him makes it easier for command leadership to do its job. He sets the example; he shows the entire command what is in the realm of possible; he is a great mentor to his peers and subordinates; and he is all about selling his passion – the United States Navy.”
Before joining the Navy, Rydberg was working a full-time job during the day and balancing a part-time job and part-time college work at night, but he said he was accruing more debt than he could afford, so he swore an oath to the Navy and never looked back. During his time as a young HM in the Navy Reserve, Rydberg deployed several times to Africa, Cuba and throughout the United Sates working at hospitals and medical clinics. When he wasn’t in uniform, he worked for a recruiting agency in Houston, eventually working his way to a manager position and then a trainer for the company’s Houston office.
“Working in human resources definitely helped me when I started recruiting in the Navy,” Rydberg recalled. “I set short- and long-term goals when I got to [NTAG] Houston, and I went out each day aiming to meet them.”
An amicable man of deferential character and not one to obfuscate the truth behind his fortunes, Rydberg credits most of his success to strong teamwork with his fellow recruiters and with the “commanding officer of [his] household,” his wife, Christine, he said.
“I wouldn’t have accomplished any of this without my wife,” Rydberg said. “She runs the household, takes care of our four kids, and makes sure I can go out every day and complete my mission for the Navy. We are a powerhouse in that sense. She’s my confidant, she’s why I’m a recruiter, and she and my kids were a huge motivator for me this year.”
Be it his family and colleagues, his battle cry of “no reward without self-discipline,” or his steadfast resolve to align his actions to Navy core values that eventually proved transcendent, Rydberg’s formula for success rendered unequivocal results that garnered him some of the highest recognition a Navy recruiter can aim for.
“Perhaps the most prestigious award a recruiter can earn, the NRC Enlisted Recruiter of the Year signifies that the [Rydberg] has achieved the highest level of recruiting excellence and is a master in his trade,” Decker said. “NC1 Rydberg has cracked the code to successful talent acquisition tactics, which include an outstanding work ethic, patience, tenacity, excellence in building relationships with applicants and their families, understanding the needs of the applicant, the ability to successfully articulate what the Navy can do for them and, finally, overlay, overlay, overlay!”
The only question left for ‘the machine’ is what comes next on his list.
“I can’t speak for others, but what it means to me is that all the hard work, all the dedication, the late nights, the weekends, the ups and downs, the rollercoaster of recruiting: it all paid off,” said Rydberg. “I hit all my goals except one, which was to find a female Navy SEAL. While I was looking for a female SEAL, I was finding males and everybody else along the way. I’m going to be here for the next two years, and it’s time for me to switch from recruiter to leader and trainer. If I can one day teach people how to take care of this art, because that’s what this is, then I’ll have done my job. If you’re an artist, this is an easy thing.”
Rydberg went on to say he hopes to become a chief petty officer one day and, perhaps, earn a commission as an officer. If it’s up to him, he’ll retire after 40 years in the Navy, helping teach as many recruiters and Sailors as possible the secrets to his success along the way.
NTAG Houston has 34 Navy recruiting stations covering more than 44,000 square miles in rural and metropolitan areas around Houston and Western Louisiana.
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