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From Would-Be Rocker To Rock Star Recruiter
by U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Todd Macdonald
June 10, 2021

Gabriel King was convinced he was going to be a rock star. He had experienced many failures in his life, even having to repeat his senior year of high school, but he loved playing bass and singing in a local rock band in his hometown of State College, Pennsylvania.

However, those dreams of guitars and stage lights began to fade when two of his bandmates left the band to attend college. King realized he was going to need another plan.

He applied to Pennsylvania State University, but was instead accepted to attend a small college to study music education, where he ultimately failed out of the program. That’s when he learned that the U.S. Navy could be his way to a better life.

April 23, 2021 - U.S. Navy Operations Specialist 1st Class Gabriel King at Naval Recruiting Station Lynchburg, VA holding a bat with his Navy career achievements on his desk. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Todd Macdonald)
April 23, 2021 - U.S. Navy Operations Specialist 1st Class Gabriel King at Naval Recruiting Station Lynchburg, VA holding a bat with his Navy career achievements on his desk. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Todd Macdonald)

“I don’t remember what the last straw was, but one day I found myself at the Navy recruiting office,” King remembers. “The only thing I regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.”

With a high ASVAB score, King had his pick of top-tier jobs in the intelligence and cryptology fields, but he chose Operation Specialist because it would get him into boot camp as quickly as possible. He said it wasn’t until he joined the Navy and met his wife that he truly started seeing success and found his work ethic.

“Everything my wife touches, she goes after it and gives 110%,” said King. “I saw the rewards of her hard work.”

Another turning point happened after his first deployment early in his seven-year career, when King was an E-5 stationed aboard USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49). Due to unforeseen circumstances involving his leading chief petty officer departing the ship, King was tasked with stepping in and filling the departed Chief’s shoes, though he admitted to doing the minimum amount of work required of him prior to taking charge.

“I got to run things and take care of Sailors,” he recalls. “I liked what I did and had a total attitude change, and my career started to take off.”
When asked why he chose recruiting, King stated the oncoming leading petty officer of his last ship had just come from a recruiting tour, and he told King how much it benefitted him.

“I decided I would rather do a hard shore duty to further my career rather than take one that would have been easy,” King said.

King’s initiative has paid off dramatically during his two years at Navy Talent Acquisition Group Richmond. Working out of Naval Recruiting Station Lynchburg, King has continued the success he experienced on the ship. His first year at NTAG Richmond, Navy Recruiting Command awarded him the Master Chief Petty Officer Bakarian Memorial Award for superior performance in his first term in recruiting.

He continued to pursue excellence as a recruiter, and in his second year King was not only the National Nuclear Field Enlisted Recruiter of the Year, but he was meritoriously promoted to the rank of E-6. He has also been given numerous monthly, quarterly, and annual command awards.

“I hope to continue seeing success while I’m here, but more importantly, seeing that trend continue for my station after I’ve left,” he said.

Despite King’s accolades, the biggest reward for him is getting to show people he talks to that there are options for them in the Navy.

“Establishing that trust and being told I truly helped them, not just by them but by their family members as well, is the best feeling in the world,” King said with a smile.

Another aspect of recruiting that is important to King is that it gives him the chance to tell people the things he wishes he had known when he first joined.

“Not just about Navy life, but the things they should worry about in regard to the big picture,” he said. “What do they need to use in order to achieve their goals which led them to my office in the first place?”

As for King, the Navy has helped him achieve things he was unable to do prior to his enlistment. He was finally accepted to Penn State University where he is majoring in Cyber Security, and his ultimate goal is to earn a degree and apply to the Seaman to Admiral (STA-21) Program to become an Information Professional Officer.

King said the Navy changed his life by giving him an opportunity in a career he wants to stick with until he retires. He has also learned to provide for his family and stay focused on his goals.

“Prior to the Navy, I was incredibly lazy,” King admits. “Now I get accused of being a workaholic. I never would have seen that coming.”

Navy Recruiting Command consists of a command headquarters, three Navy Recruiting Regions, 16 Navy Recruiting Districts and 10 Navy Talent Acquisition Groups that serve more than 1,330 recruiting stations across the world. Their combined goal is to attract the highest quality candidates to ensure the ongoing success of America’s Navy.

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