When Aviation Ordnanceman (AO) 2nd Class Nicholas Kless chose his rating, he knew it was a tough, hardworking job where he could build camaraderie with a unit and have a chance to work on the flight deck; but something happened early on that exposed him to another unexpected possibility.

“It started in boot camp, as an airman recruit,” Kless said. “My collateral duty was the religious petty officer on Saturdays and Sundays. I’d go to the church and assist the chaplains and religious program specialists (RPs) there.”

Eventually, Kless got orders to join Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154 at NAS Lemoore, California, before arriving at Pax River about three years ago. He describes AO as “exemplifying the greatest aspects of the military, seeing the hard work turn first-hand into a successful mission.” But he never forgot his time spent helping the chaplain’s office back in boot camp.

“I saw how church was a place that Sailors could go to find refuge and solace,” he said. “I enjoyed my time there and always had a special space in my heart for the RP community.”

Then, a few months ago, Kless says, “a perfect storm of events took place” that led to his Chief Yeoman asking him if he planned to cross-rate.

“I wasn’t sure if it would work in that moment, but I knew I had to try,” Kless said.

Around that time, Kless actively sought out Pax River Chaplain Lt. Clay Hamrick to find out more about it and discuss what the daily life of an RP was on shore duty as well as operational. Hamrick gave Kless the chance to shadow his office’s Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class Joseph Mojica as he carried out his duties. He also recommended Kless meet with the regional RPC, which he did.

“Chaplain Hamrick and RP2 Mojica have truly helped guide me along this path,” Kless added. “Chaplain Hamrick always made sure that every question was answered and every problem solved. Reaching out to fellow Sailors is a crucial key to cross-rating.”

In fact, cross-rating in the Navy is not a particularly easy task and Kless recommends that anyone considering the possibility should speak with their Command Career Counselor to determine what they would need to begin the process before they apply for their Career Waypoints, or C-Way.

“The biggest hurdle most Sailors will face is the feedback from their current Enlisted Community Manager if they are undermanned or not, and if the rate they are trying to transfer to is open or closed,” Kless said. “The rate the Sailor is trying to convert to also has limitations based on ASVAB scores or qualifications. However, I will say that if a Sailor is truly outstanding and an asset to the Navy, then doors may open. Hard work in their current rate is the first step.”

Kless also offered this advice to any Sailor considering not reenlisting: “Always talk about a rate change, [becoming] a full-time Reservist, or other options before becoming a civilian. The military has many options and programs for people and a Sailor’s command career counselor can help guide them to something that may suit their strengths.”

Currently negotiating orders with his Detailer, Kless is hoping to receive his new assignment soon.

“The RP community has billets attached to the Navy, Seabee commands, Marines, and other things as well,” he added. “There are many exciting avenues.”

Asked how he thought Kless would do as an RP, Hamrick said the position requires a “people person” and he thinks Kless will be successful.

“[RPs] need to be able to listen and care for others primarily,” Hamrick noted. “Having good administrative skills and attention to detail is part of the daily work. I believe Kless embodies these traits and qualities, enabling him to be a great asset to the Navy. His prior experience in a different rate and his time already served gives him insight on how to best connect with Sailors and Marines.”

For his part, Kless feels grateful and is ready to get underway.

“Without the chain of command around me, I would not have been afforded this opportunity,” he stated. “I am blessed, and my job now is to be the best RP I can be.”