A Commitment to Serve
Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Kyle Hafer
MILLINGTON, Tenn. – People can give back to their community in many ways such as charity, volunteer work or public service, but for some that’s not enough. These people are part of a small populous. In fact, they are less than one percent of Americans who are actively serving in the military, according to surveys done by the Department of Defense Joint Advertising and Marketing Research Service. They’re active duty military members and only a fraction of them are recruiters.
Statistically Michael Gehringer is a rare breed. He’s a Navy Recruiter who calls Tennessee home despite being born a bit further north of the state. “I didn’t grow up here as much as grow old here,” said Gehringer. “I grew up in a small community called Painesville, near Cleveland Ohio. I moved to Tennessee at 17 years old, and I’ve lived here ever since.”
Gehringer became a Memphis police officer in 2001, but over the years he looked for other ways to be involved in the community. With the help of his local recruiting station in 2013, he enlisted in the Navy Reserves to be a master-at-arms, which is the Navy’s version of military police.
Gehringer had over a decade of experience as a civilian police officer, so he was bringing “real-world” experience to the Navy. Naturally he excelled at his job and earned the rank of Petty Officer 1st Class in less than five years. During his first assignment, Gehringer trained reserve master-at-arms in shooter scenarios, knife attack defenses, building clearance and emergency driving, preparing them for drill duty and deployments.
“I’ve always felt the best way to learn something is to teach it,” said Gehringer. “Giving back in the Navy security forces unit helped me to hone my skills in local law enforcement. I would like to think that it helped the Navy by sending master-at-arms to the field who were prepared for their duties.”
From Sea Service to Shore Duty, Coming Full Circle
Gehringer completed his four-year reservist tour in training and took follow on active duty orders to be a full-time Navy recruiter at Navy Talent Acquisition Force Mid-South.
“After serving as a police officer for 16 years, these orders allowed me to be more involved with my family,” said Gehringer. “Although I was alright with the consequences and dangers of my job, my family was more comfortable with me serving as a recruiter verses as a police officer.”
Gehringer lives in in Bartlett which is a part of Shelby County. Though he commutes to work in Memphis, his stomping grounds for recruiting include much of the Shelby and Tipton County areas.
“I became a recruiter because it was my way to give back to my country and my community at the same time,” said Gehringer. “I have the ability to help get good quality people, from all walks of life, a career in the Navy. Additionally, I have been able to give those that want to continue to serve their lives back as Sailors.”
Gehringer is not the average Navy recruiter. Referred to as a “prior service recruiter” his specialty has been helping veterans join the U.S. Navy. He is there to guide these veterans back into service.
“The Navy truly is a great place to be,” said Gehringer. “In nearly all the cases I have experienced, or personally observed, there is something in place for the Navy to take care of its Sailors. Whether it be financial aid for college, job security, housing, food, camaraderie, or dealing with the difficulties that come our way, someone is there to have your back. As a prior service recruiter, I constantly hear stories from veterans talking about civilian life difficulties and lack of the aforementioned things that the Navy is ready to provide in an instant.”
A Deeper Way to Serve
Gehringer is no stranger to connecting to others. He often travels around the Somerville, Eads, and Moscow areas searching for Civil War artifacts with his medal detector. “I’ve met a lot of people doing this as a hobby,” said Gehringer. “Being out in the country in touch with nature and seeking out local history is peaceful. It’s very exciting when I find something like a civil war bullet, army horse equipment and I even found a Kentucky-stamped Confederate Army Officers uniform button.”
Time spent in the country gives Gehringer a chance to decompress and grow in his spiritual walk. He’s an active volunteer at his church, teaching classes and working as an associate pastor.
“The Navy has allowed me to complete a Bachelor’s in Theology and a Master’s degree in Christian Apologetics from Liberty University, utilizing the tuition assistance benefit program,” said Gehringer. “With a desire to work diligently, and serve others. I am now serving as a deacon and teacher at Crossroads Baptist Church. If it wasn’t for the Navy I would have never been disciplined enough to pursue these things that are now my heart’s desire.”
Gehringer said recruiting has been a blessing to say the least. He’s been able to give back to the place he calls home, and has expressed his hope that other Sailors will return home to give back to their communities the same way he has.
“I’ll be turning 37 in July, and I’ve spent two decades in the Memphis area living, serving, and securing,” said Gehringer. “I’ve met some wonderful people in the area, I met my wife, raised my children, learned about Jesus, worked two careers, and buried my parents here. This is my home.”
Gehringer plans to retire from the police force and continue his Naval career.
For more news from Commander, Navy Recruiting Command, visit us on the web, www.navy.mil/local/cnrc/; on our YouTube channel, U.S. Navy Recruiter and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/NavyRecruiting.