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Navy ‘Golden Ticket’ program allows former sailors to easily return to active duty

Petty Officer 1st Class Micheal Trendley left the Navy last year to join the private sector. Then the coronavirus happened and he lost his job. Trendley is able to rejoin the Navy through a so-called "Golden Ticket." Here, he is seen at the Naval Base in San Diego on Thursday, July 23, 2020. (Eric Hutter / Commander Officer of HSM-78/The Virginian-Pilot/TNS)

Petty Officer 1st Class Micheal Trendley left the Navy last year to join the private sector. Instead of working on helicopters, he would be juggling numbers. He joined an accounting firm in St. Louis and thought he was starting a new chapter of his life.

Then the coronavirus happened and he lost his job.

Thanks to an initiative launched in 2018, Trendley was able to easily rejoin the Navy. He’s already back in uniform, serving with a San Diego-based helicopter squadron.

“It was a no brainer to come back,” said Trendley, recalling all the great experiences he had and colleagues he served with while in the Navy. “It was the most fulfilling 10 years of my life.”

Trendley was able to quickly rejoin the Navy because his old command gave him a so-called “Golden Ticket” before he walked out the door. The entire reentry process took less than six weeks after he entered the Navy Targeted Re-entry Program.

He was only the second sailor to take advantage of the program so far.

This is how the process works:

Before a sailor leaves active duty, a commanding officer can nominate a sailor for participation. The sailors who are nominated can receive a gold or silver ticket.

A golden ticket recipient is guaranteed streamlined return to active duty within one year of release while a silver ticket recipient is afforded a streamlined return to active duty dependent upon the needs of the Navy. The golden tickets revert to silver tickets for an additional year if not used in the first.

Trendley eventually returned with a silver ticket because he waited.

While in the program, each participant is transferred to minimum reserve status, or standby reserve-inactive, for a maximum of two years. While in reserve status the participant has no drilling participation requirement and no eligibility for promotion or advancement. The sailor also is not eligible for benefits.

Those who choose to return to active duty are granted the same rank they had when they left.

Service members eligible for the program include those with the ranks of petty officer 3rd, 2nd and 1st class, lieutenant and lieutenant commander. They must have completed their minimum service obligation and have served less than 14 years.

Back in uniform, Trendley is now working on MH-60 Romeo helicopters and other mission systems. In the next year, Trendley’s squadron will prepare for an upcoming deployment on the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier.

“This is the exact reason for the program,” said Commander Eric Hutter, Trendley’s supervisor. “It’s incredibly important for a command like us to get a fully qualified individual with the wealth of experience that he has in working on the specific aircraft that we fly. It is a huge benefit to us as we began the work ups to have this kind of talent come into the squadron.”

The Targeted Re-entry Program was launched in February 2018 and to date has given out nearly 600 tickets to enlisted sailors and 47 to officers.

To figure out if going back to active duty is the right thing to do, Trendley said it depends on the situation and that “you just have to take a look” at what’s best.

“That’s what I did,” Trendley said. “I looked at where I was in St. Louis with school and with my work situation and the job satisfaction that I was getting out of the places where I was working.”

To encourage some former sailors to return, the Navy Personnel Command’s Department for Reserve Personnel Management also periodically checks in with ticket holders, said Capt. Doug Howell.

Sailors who left active duty can still return without the golden or silver tickets.

“We’re always looking for more of those experienced sailors that, for whatever reason, decided that they were going to depart the Navy and go pursue a career in the civilian world,” said Rear Admiral Dennis Velez, commander of Navy Recruiting Command.

Velez said the veterans just need to walk to the local recruiting office with a few forms and their physical from when they left the military. The recruiters will then walk them through the process of rejoining at the rank they left, or maybe another one.

“I’m really happy to be back,” Trendley said. “Like I said it was a no brainer. An easy decision to come back. It was a tough decision to make to leave.”


© 2020 The Virginian-Pilot