Thursday, October 30, 2014

MC Perspective: A tough reality

MCSR Lydia Charlet at the student detachment.

I haven't written about it much on my blog, but Mass Communication Specialist training can be pretty rough.  Most of us struggle with the 6-month long A school.  In terms of military schools, it's one of the longest and most demanding.  There's a reason Navy MCs are considered the highest-trained, most versatile of all the branches.

The reality is, not everyone makes it.  And the first half of school, the writing portion, is what knocks most Sailors out. 

MCSR Lydia Charlet just failed out of MC A School.  It's hit her hard, but she took the time to write in about the experience, and to give some advice for those of you on the way to the Defense Information School.

She's 18 years old.  I have no idea how I would've handled this kind of setback when I was that age.  It probably would've involved me curling up in a corner, sobbing and sucking on my thumb.

Volunteering at a HART dog adoption event.

CHARLET: For anyone interested in becoming a Mass Communication Specialist, I only have one bit of advice: make sure you want it 100 percent. MC A school is hard and the Defense Information School (DINFOS) is no joke. If MC was just a way to get away from being undesignated or being assigned some rate that didn't sound quite as appealing, please please please make sure that you're committed to MC. There are so many people that would do anything for that position, and you're lucky enough to get that seat in class. Don't take it for granted. 

 "...the Defense Information School is no joke."

I got tripped up in the second focus area (FA), which is feature writing. I'm not a bad writer.  It's always been one of my best subjects. I messed up on features because I took it for granted. I had been getting great feedback from my main instructor, so I felt good. I was confident I'd pass my final story.  I had two golden interviews from two senior chiefs. I had my online sources, my lead, conclusion, everything was perfect. 

"It was the mechanics that sank me."

I had missed commas, something without source attribution and paragraph separation problems.  And the most frustrating part is that all the mistakes were things that could have been fixed with no more than 30 extra minutes of editing.

Charlet and friends.

Needless to say I was devastated. When you fail an FA it's not necessarily the end all be all for your time at DINFOS. You get one recycle to an upcoming class if you are a good Sailor, keep up with your grades or at least show improvement and generally demonstrate the drive to do better if given a second chance. The entire school house recommended me for recycle, even my chain of command except the Officer In Charge (OIC). He denied my recycle because there was no spot open in the upcoming class and there was no way to hold me until a spot opened up.  That's because there's no way to know if someone is going to fail out or get recycled.

"My only option was to choose a new rate."

I met with different people in admin and collected my medical and dental records. A few days after leaving DINFOS I got the paperwork with the list of jobs I'm qualified for based on ASVAB scores. I picked Aerographer's Mate (AG) because I like science so why not be a meteorologist for the Navy.

Now that I am at AG A school in Mississippi I realize that MC really is the best job in the Navy. I fully intend to do my two years and then cross rate back to MC. I'm not the kind of person that's interested in doing a full 20 years in the Navy but I'd do 30 if it means that I can be an MC. I'd do anything. 

So just make sure, when looking at that rating sheet at MEPs or the recruiting station or wherever you may be that you want this rate. Those who get it are infinitely lucky in my opinion and I would trade the world to be back in that position.


Thank you for sharing your story with us Charlet.  Hang in there.


  1. I'm a cross-rate. I fought hard to get into this career field. As a former submarine electrician's mate, I have great appreciation for being an MC.

    Thanks for the read! Keep up the good work.

  2. Thanks Xander! It took guts and maturity for MCSR Charlet to write this. I'm sure it will be very helpful for the prospective MCs out there.

  3. Hey Glenn, thanks for all of the info. Would you say an MC works longer hours and spends more time away from family (my wife) because they have to document so much? I'm currently a photojournalist and would like to join.

  4. Right now our sea/shore rotation is 3 years. That's more than some, less than others. If you were a boatswain mate, for example, you could spend five years out to sea. I'd say we work the same hours as everyone else on the ship.

  5. Hi Glenn, I'm so happy I came across your blog! I'm actually looking into enlisting in the Navy after college and going to A school to become an MC. Currently, I'm minoring in visual journalism. My dad just retired this summer from the Navy as a Commander, so I asked his opinion about whether I should enlist to become an MC or go to OCS to become a PAO. He said PAOs have better opportunities than MCs, but I really want to focus on photography and journalism, and actually going out into the field to do work, not really public affairs, supervising, etc. that the PAOs do, if that makes sense. However, I guess I can always start off as enlisted and go to OCS after a few years if I change my mind. As an MC, what's your opinion? I'll be graduating college in three years, and I think becoming a MC Specialist is the right path for me. I aspire to become a photojournalist, and I'm a staff photographer for my university's newspaper. I don't plan, right now at least, to be in the Navy for the rest of my career, which is another reason I hesitate doing OCS, but that can always change. I can, however, see myself being an MC for quite a while. I take it the MCs "go out in the field" more than the PAOs? Because that's what I really want to do! Any suggestions as to what path to take?:) And thank you for blogging about your experiences!!

  6. Hi Riley, happy to have you here! If you want to become a photojournalist, MC is a better fit for you right now. A PAO doesn't touch cameras or write. They don't even assign people. The senior enlisted folks do that. You'd be responsible for making sure the entire department is producing and you answer to the CO of the command. Of all the officers I've met, the prior enlisted are by far the best. They have a wealth of knowledge about Navy life and they're more approachable.

    I'm not sure what "better opportunities" for PAOs means. It's all about what you are looking for. Officers live more comfortable lives that's for sure.