FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Brig. Gen. Bradley May, Fort Jackson commanding general, recognized post retention personnel for retaining "America's best," during a retention awards luncheon Jan. 21 at the Officer's Club.

Last year, 410 Soldiers stationed at Fort Jackson raised their right hands to pledge to

"Stay Army," exceeding installation retention goals, with an overall accomplishment of 112 percent.

For the third year in a row, the 171st Infantry Brigade earned Top Brigade, re-enlisting 139 Soldiers during fiscal year 2009. The 187th Ordnance Battalion, earned Top Battalion for Retention Excellence.

Master Sgt. David Shannon, the 171st's senior career counselor, said it has been the unit's "Soldier-first" approach that encouraged Soldiers to sign on the dotted line.

"We treat every Soldier as an individual, rather than a number," Shannon said. "We talk to each Soldier as a person and look at his or her exact needs, wants and desires, and try to match them with the Army's needs, wants and desires."

It's a complicated process of listening to Soldiers' requests, educating them on all options available to them, while fulfilling the Army's requirements, Shannon said. And one of the most influential players in the equation isn't the career counselor, but the commander, he said.

"Commanders set the tone for their unit," Shannon said. "If they don't make sure the Soldiers are taken care of and their well being is taken care of, the Soldiers are not going to be happy. If they're not happy, they're not going to want to stay with the team or sign a contract to stay with the Army."

Whether it's taking care of Soldiers' pay, handling administrative issues, giving time off, or just the way they talk to and treat Soldiers, Shannon said, commanders must do as much as they can to keep Soldiers' morale high in today's Army.

As the U.S. continues to fight two wars, many Soldiers stationed at Fort Jackson, a training installation, are faced with the likelihood of being reassigned to an installation where units are deploying in the near future, Shannon said.

After being assigned to a job here, where they may have worked a lot of hours or traveled often on temporary duty, the possibility of deploying for 12 to 15 months can be off-putting, Shannon said.

In the current economy, providing for their families is most often the reason Soldiers decide to re-enlist, said Master Sgt. Robert Brookins, the 187th's retention noncommissioned officer.

When Brookins breaks down a Soldier's pay and compares it to the hourly rate a person would have to earn in the civilian work force to maintain the same standard of living, staying in the Army seems that much more appealing to a Soldier who is already serving, Brookins said.

Aside from decent wages and job security, the military also provides affordable medical and child care.

"If a Soldier re-enlists, he or she knows (he or she) is getting paid twice a month," Brookins said. "(Soldiers) know they already have these benefits in place, so no money has to come out of their pocket to do anything."

Only four months into the new fiscal year, all of Fort Jackson's commands have already met half of their retention goals. Sgt. Maj. Jacqueline Lloyd, installation career counselor, said she expects the entire Fort Jackson retention team to meet 100 percent of its mission goals well before the close of the year.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16