Career counselors help retain quality Soldiers to sustain Army
July 24, 2014
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (July 24, 2014) -- The 10th Sustainment Brigade was the first 10th Mountain Division (LI) brigade last year to achieve its retention mission. This year, the brigade remains as one of the top retention teams in large part due to Staff Sgt. Rogerio Brito.
Brito, the brigade's senior career counselor responsible for more than 2,900 deployed Soldiers' careers, believes that it's his sole mission to concentrate on Soldiers and their Family Members.
U.S. Army career counselors are subject-matter experts on all facets of Army life, to include reenlistment and reclassification.
According to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the Army is in the process of reducing the number of Soldiers in the ranks to as low as 440,000 while ensuring the force remains well-trained and equipped.
As the Army seeks to retain its best Soldiers, unit career counselors plays a critical role, helping Soldiers who are approaching their expiration of term of service with their decision to transition out of the Army or continue to serve.
Some Soldiers who enlisted years ago did not always know exactly what kind of a job they would be assigned in the Army.
"It's my job to help (those Soldiers) find a job that deals with their interests, hobbies and other things they are good at," Brito said. "It's a win-win for the Army and the Soldier. When the Soldier is happier with (his or her) new job, the Army gets a more productive Soldier."
Since last year, achieving their retention mission has not been a problem for 10th Sustainment Brigade career counselors.
"We focus on taking care of the Soldier," Brito said. "For the most part, that helped us become the top producers in the division."
The "mission" is a set number of Soldiers that the Army requires units to reenlist each year. This is one reason the reenlistment bonuses may fluctuate or even disappear throughout the year.
Like most professions, career counselors may run into challenges.
"The drawdown and the Army wanting to lower (its) numbers makes my mission harder," Brito said.
Getting numbers down isn't complicated, Brito said. The movement of a Soldier from one career field to another is the difficult part.
An issue career counselors may come across is the lack of military occupational specialties for which Soldiers may be qualified. Some MOSs may require higher Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery scores than Soldiers possess.
The ASVAB is a test that recruits are required to take to evaluate their capabilities before serving in the armed forces.
Soldiers may improve their ASVAB line scores through classes like the Basic Skills Education Program, which is part of the Functional Academic Skills Training program. There is also an online class available, the Peterson online course, which can be found at Army Knowledge Online.
Brito said sometimes it's just a matter of trying to convince Soldiers to consider other career fields to help them progress in their military career.
Another issue career counselors may have to deal with is a Soldier's retention control point.
RCP is a time limit that Soldiers are authorized to remain in a rank. If Soldiers are unable to get promoted to the next rank and have reached their RCP, they are not allowed to reenlist, but they must fulfill their current contractual obligation before transitioning out of the Army.
Brito said Soldiers reduced to a lower rank may be over the time allotted for that rank and this affects the career counselor's mission.
Advising Soldiers on their options and providing guidance on career progression is the reason career counselors are there.
Being deployed has only created more obstacles for the unit career counselors to overcome compared to supporting Soldiers back in the U.S.
"The lack of communication the Soldiers have with their Families can really slow down the process," said Sgt. Nick Bozzi, a 10th Special Troops Battalion retention NCO. "Making a decision as big as relocating a Family may not be something most Soldiers want to make without talking about it with their loved ones."
The brigade career counselor makes it a habit of maintaining calling cards for Soldiers to call their Families on the spot when time is of the essence.
Brito said he works on building a relationship with Soldiers, to always be there for them, and he will do whatever he can to help them out.
Career counselors also try to make each Soldier's reenlistment ceremony as memorable as possible.
"It doesn't always have to happen in the office, but anywhere a Soldier wants to do it," Bozzi said. "Sometimes Soldiers just want a ceremony with their friends and co-workers, while others want to be standing in a helicopter."
Soldiers have choices, and career counselors are charged with assisting Soldiers by counseling them on the opportunities.
But at the end of the day, providing the Army with the best qualified Soldiers is their main focus.