Navy Counselor 1st Class Paul Rydberg’s oldest son is 9 years old but not too young to plan for the future.
Zayne told his father recently that he planned to join the Navy. That day is a while off, but for Rydberg — the 2020 Enlisted (Active Component) Recruiter of the Year for Navy Recruiting Command — the sense of pride was immediate.
“The only thing that I can attribute that to is the fact that Dad is [in the] Navy, and he’s seen me put on the uniform every day,’’ Rydberg said. “It would be amazing if one of my kids kept that legacy when they get old enough to serve.’’
Just don’t expect Rydberg, 36, to recruit Zayne. Rydberg, who is assigned to Navy Talent Acquisition Group (NTAG) Houston, plans to be an officer by then.
For now, Rydberg is in a good place.
He earned the Centurion Award last fall for signing at least 100 recruits in one tour of recruiting. Kevin King, Rydberg’s leading petty officer when he began recruiting for the Navy, said most recruiters don’t average two contracts a month.
“Because he’s working to be his best, he’s going to be picking your brain for knowledge and he’s going to be constantly asking you questions,’’ King said. “You have to be on top of your game. This guy is hungry for knowledge, so you have to be ready to give it to him, give him the tools he needs to be successful.’’
Rydberg, a father of four with his wife, Christine, described being chosen as Recruiter of the Year as “an exciting moment.’’
The role is all-encompassing, especially during COVID-19 restrictions. Rydberg leaves no tool unused when trying to build a relationship with an applicant: Phone calls. Text messages. School lists. Social media. Email.
“I tell every recruiter this: You have to hit multiple pillars of recruiting every day,’’ Rydberg said. “The biggest pillar during COVID for me was referrals from my future sailors.’’
Rydberg stayed late on Friday nights and worked on Saturdays. He adjusted to accommodate parents’ work schedules. He drove applicants to and from appointments and hotels.
“You have to be willing to do what the other recruiters are not,’’ Rydberg said.
Originally from Katy, Texas, a half-hour west of Houston, Rydberg works in the office where his career in the Navy began in 2006.
Rydberg said applicants could be seeking a way to pay for college or already hold a degree. They might be the first family member to enlist or continuing a tradition of military service.
“They all have different reasons and different backgrounds,’’ Rydberg said. “It’s great to work with these people and to help put them in the Navy. That’s the sauce. I don’t work for the Navy. I work for these applicants.’’
Before Rydberg joined the military, he worked two jobs by day and attended community college at night. Student debt piled up. Seeking a better way, he was inspired by an uncle who retired from the Navy.
“I saw what it did for him and his career,’’ Rydberg said. “That was really the spark for me.’’
Rydberg was a hospital corpsman in the reserves, performing humanitarian work. He traveled to Africa and did a tour at Guantanamo Bay. After a trip to Cuba in 2017, Rydberg went on active duty.
“It just wasn’t the same coming back to the reserves after being on a mobilization,’’ Rydberg said. “I heard through an officer friend of mine that Houston needed recruiters. I picked his brain. … I was recruiting [in human resources] in the civilian world. I thought the transition would be smooth.’’
Fifteen years ago, Rydberg stepped into a recruiting office, seeking a better life.
He found one but never forgot his journey.
“I put myself back in those shoes several times when I’m sitting here, talking to applicants,’’ Rydberg said. “I just remember what it’s like, and I come to work every day and try to help these applicants.’’Read comments