FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz -- They are not salesman. They are not headhunters.
They are the Soldiers next to you at the unit-level, who now are better empowered to help you make a pretty big decision.

Approximately 40 noncommissioned officers, primarily from Fort Huachuca, attended a mobile retention training course Feb. 1-5, at Fitch Auditorium. The training teaches Soldiers to learn how to become unit retention NCOs.

The training was facilitated by a mobile retention team from Fort Jackson, S.C. During the course, the NCOs received a range of instruction, covering topics such as reenlistment eligibility and different counseling phases involved in the retention process.

This course is a "foundation of where to start," said Sgt. 1st Class Marisa Estrella, instructor, Recruiting and Retention School, Fort Jackson, S.C.

"We try to let the students know the basics of what a successful retention program should include," she added.

For most, the title of retention NCO is an additional duty, but as Master Sgt. Derrick Ray, Huachuca\'s senior installation career counselor points out, it is one each should take pride in being assigned.

The NCOs in attendance were handpicked by their chain of command, and represent an elite microcosm of the NCO corps who "are professional and experienced ... that set the example and can help promote the Army," Ray said.

In fiscal year 2009, Huachuca's retention NCOs did just that, with many earning a coveted Early Bird Award for their diligence in meeting retention requirements early in the year.

"The commanding general put the challenge out there for us to meet mission early," Ray said. "And we made it six months early."

"The key is to be aggressive, [and] to talk to Soldiers when their reenlistment window opens up," Ray said. But more than that, Ray stresses a no-nonsense, simplistic approach where Huachuca NCOs meet with those in a reenlistment window and conduct "Soldier to Soldier" communication.

"[We] meet in the Soldiers' environment, have a regular conversation and talk realistically about their future, based on their unique situation," Ray explained, adding, "No Soldier is the same, it is important to address each one's needs, wants and desires."

Full circle

"Seeing content Soldiers, seeing their satisfaction, this quickly became my favorite job," said Staff Sgt. Stephen Clark, 18th Military Police Detachment, currently assigned to Headquarters, Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence.

A year prior, Estrella and the mobile retention team conducted the same MRT at Fitch auditorium, with Clark in attendance.

"At the end of the training, they [instructors] asked who thought might make a career out of this," Clark said. "I didn't raise my hand."

He already had four additional duties when his first sergeant asked him to take on the fifth, seeking out Clark for this responsibility because he viewed the NCO as someone "he could trust in."

After a rocky start - Clark had more than twenty Soldiers seek him out his first month on the job -he completed the MRT and emerged poised, confident and mission-ready. Clark, now twelve months removed from attending MRT, has raised his hand.

He has submitted a packet to change his military occupational specialty to 79S, the designation for an Army career counselor.

"I love being an MP [Military Police], I love law enforcement, but I love retention as well," Clark said. "To share the satisfaction of what the Army offers with fellow service members ... is highly rewarding."

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