By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Raymond Maddocks, Commander, Navy Reserve Forces Command
When Logistics Specialist 1st Class Tchilalou Riggs, a native of Togo, applied for the diversity visa lottery program in 2005, her application had roughly half of a percentage point of a chance at being accepted. That year, the program accepted less than 50,000 people out of approximately 9.5 million qualified applicants, yet, against the steepest of odds, her application was selected.
Riggs’ story may have begun with a measure of luck, but her journey from her home in a small, West African nation on the Gulf of Guinea to leading Sailors in a key department at Commander, Navy Reserve Forces Command (CNRFC) in Norfolk, Virginia, is a tale of hard work, perseverance and making the most of every opportunity.
After moving to the United States and settling in Raleigh, North Carolina, Riggs’ sister told her about a job at an assisted living facility working as a certified nurse’s assistant. Riggs saw this as another opportunity, and began studying in earnest to earn the certifications needed to get the job. After 4 months of diligent and dedicated study, she passed and earned the job she’d been working toward. It wasn’t long before she set her sights on another goal.
“At that point in my life I wanted to start going to school to better myself,” said Riggs. “It was by complete chance that I ran into a Navy recruiter.”
Riggs said the recruiter explained to her how the Navy could pay for her schooling and help her achieve her goal of completing her college degree without accruing a lot of debt. She enlisted in the Navy as a Full-Time Support (FTS) Sailor in November, 2007.
Riggs said she feels proud of what she has been able to accomplish with her time in the Navy, including becoming leading petty officer of the N4 logistics department at CNRFC while earning both her associates and bachelor’s degrees in business management.
Throughout her time in the military, Riggs has achieved many of the goals she has set out to achieve, but she has also gained valuable experience — and a few new responsibilities — she never envisioned before she enlisted.
“As the LPO of N4, I am responsible for making sure my junior Sailors are taken care of,” Riggs said. “I am also the N4 career counselor, so I track Sailors’ potential rotation dates, reenlistments, and when they’re up for advancement, among other things. Another big responsibility is I am the point of contact for the Reserve force on berthing and uniform guidance for all Reserve Component Commands (RCC) and Navy Operational Support Centers (NOSC).”
Although many of her duties and responsibilities require customer service skills, Riggs said she hasn’t always been so comfortable reaching out and talking to people. The normally soft-spoken and introverted Riggs believes her improved interpersonal skills are one of her biggest areas of growth during her time in the Navy.
“I never used to talk to people outside of what we needed to say for work,” she said. “I used to be very quiet, but I had people that I’ve worked with throughout my time in the military who pushed me to be more social and communicate better, and I’m thankful for that.”
Riggs believes her tenacity, goal-setting, organizational acumen and improved interpersonal skills will ultimately help her achieve her next goal: becoming a chief petty officer in the United States Navy.
“I plan on retiring from the military, and the biggest thing I want to achieve before that time is to become a chief,” said Riggs.