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Recruiting with a Bedside Manner

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Story by PO2 Bridget Saunders on 08/02/2019
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (NNS) For one nurse working long shifts at a medical center in Greenville, North Carolina, an email from a recruiter at Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC), Wilmington, North Carolina, started a life-changing sequence of events. The email headline, "Navy Medical Officer Recruiters Needed," grabbed her attention.

Barbara Sterrenberg, a nurse and mother of two, read the email which explained the need for nurses in the U.S. Navy and why the Nurse Corps is so important to the Navy. Intrigued, she made her move.

Stepping into the recruiter's office, she didn't know what to expect. Doubts that she may not meet the necessary requirements surfaced in her mind, and she thought she might be turned away. At forty-seven years old, she was nervous about being past the conventional age to enter the Navy. Despite this uncertainty, the desire to serve her country remained unwavering, and Sterrenberg worked closely with her new recruiters to earn a commissioning as a medical officer in the Navy Reserves July 17, 2014.

Upon commissioning, Sterrenberg began drilling as a reservist at NOSC Wilmington, NC. The following year, she went to the Direct Commission Officer Indoctrination Course to complete her officer training. Sterrenberg's first command was Camp Lejeune Operational Health Support Unit and then she transferred to Naval Medical Center San Diego.
After serving in the medical field for several years she realized she wanted to help people by sharing her experience. It took her career in a totally new direction, but she knew that being a recruiter was the right job for her.

"If I could turn back time, I would have done it many years ago," said Sterrenberg. "I love what I do."

Today, she carries the rank of Lieutenant and serves as a medical officer recruiter for Navy Talent Acquisition Group (NTAG) Nashville assigned to Navy Officer Recruiting Station Knoxville, Tennessee.

Sterrenberg's main job satisfaction though the years came from providing compassionate care to her patients. She feels this is reflected in her style of recruiting. "I just love helping people, whether it's in a nurse's role or a recruiting role," said Sterrenberg.

Her recruiting approach centers around each applicant and dedicating herself to making every commission meaningful.

"The applicants want to serve so much and I don't want to make it such a frustrating process that they're not enjoying coming into the Navy, so I like to make it special," said Sterrenberg.

Sterrenberg is committed to her job. She's worked seven-day weeks more times than she can count and many of those weeks were spent driving countless hours across state lines just to deliver a personalized commissioning package to her applicants. She says she is fully committed to bringing the best service as a recruiter to future officers.

One of her fondest memories is commissioning an officer out of Lincoln Memorial University behind the President's house, in Harrogate, Tennessee. The applicant's family had traveled from Florida to see the commission of her applicant, Devin Weber. His grandmother, who had served 27 years in the military, hugged Sterrenberg, telling Sterrenberg she was the most caring recruiter she had ever met.

"It almost made me cry," said Sterrenberg. "This is why I do what I do," she said.

Sterrenberg says she pairs her compassionate demeanor with an honest approach, especially when encountering future officers who may be hesitant to joining the military.

Many applicants have misconceptions about entering the Navy, according to Sterrenberg. She said it's usually rumors or stories they've heard that are often not true, but in reality there are numerous options, locations and duties an officer can be assigned. Just because a Sailor is in the Navy doesn't mean they will solely serve on a ship. She likes to inform applicants of serving around the world and traveling overseas. To Sterrenberg, the Navy is an adventure that she wants to share with other people.

"My philosophy is to be honest and truthful with everything we discuss," said Sterrenberg. "If I do not know the answer, then I use my recruiting resources to help me."

Sterrenberg discusses her own experiences with her applicants, and sometimes her passion for recruiting is all it takes to get them to join. "I tell someone, who may be on the fence, how much I love the Navy and how much of an honor it is to serve. It's an honor that not many people get to have," said Sterrenberg.

Sterrenberg recalls, one applicant was working as a nurse out of a small rural hospital, and he wasn't sure if he wanted to take the step toward military service. He was someone she could relate with. During an hour-long conversation, she discussed the opportunities the Navy held for his future and experiences that are not available as a civilian. Excited by the opportunities, he decided to join.

Stories like this are what encourages Sterrenberg as she continues to recruit the next generation of Sailors.

"As a nurse I get to help heal patients by providing compassionate care, and as a recruiter I get to help bring in medical professionals that want to provide high quality care to our fellow Sailors," said Sterrenberg. "I am making dreams come true for those that want to serve their country."

NTAG Nashville is one of eight NTAGs nationwide. More than 100,000 square miles are assigned to NTAG Nashville including counties in Tennessee, Arkansas, northern Alabama, northern Georgia, northern Mississippi, southern Kentucky and Southwestern Virginia. The command consists of two Talent Acquisition Onboarding Centers (TAOC) Music City and Blues City, and 36 Navy Talent Acquisition Sites.

Navy Recruiting Command consists of a command headquarters, three Navy Recruiting Regions, 18 Navy Recruiting Districts and eight Navy Talent Acquisition Groups that serve more than 1,300 recruiting stations across the world. Their combined goal is to attract the highest quality candidates to assure the ongoing success of America's Navy.

For more news from Commander, Navy Recruiting Command, go to Follow Navy Recruiting on Facebook (, Twitter (@USNRecruiter) and Instagram (@USNRecruiter).


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