First Team earns first in retention
September 20, 2007
CAMP LIBERTY, IRAQ - The 1st Cavalry Division is the number one division in retaining Soldiers within the U.S. Army Forces Command in fiscal year 2007.
With more than 4,600 Soldiers reenlisted with the fiscal year not complete, the Cav has a firm hold on the title as the top division in FORSCOM for retention. Currently the 2nd Infantry Division is a distant second, trailing by approximately 2,500 reenlistments, said Sgt. Maj. Derek Dahlke, the 1st Cav. Div. retention sergeant major.
More than 1,900 Soldiers signed on to stay with the First Team. Soldiers signing new contracts earned more than $ 48 million in bonuses, said Dahlke, a native Houston.
"The deployment has helped the number of Soldiers reenlisting for a number of reasons. One, we have better bonuses while deployed. They're tax free. Also, we've had some Soldiers wait to do this in a tax free zone, as well as a lot of Soldiers like performing their actual job in the combat zone and doing what they do best," Dahlke explained.
Typically, deployment bonuses are significantly higher than reenlistment incentives while in garrison.
"The highest individual bonus I've seen to date is $37,500," Dahlke said. That lump sum went to a noncommissioned officer working as a linguist in the division headquarters, who reenlisted to attend the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, Calif., he said.
However, even with greater bonuses, making Soldiers aware of their options is a difficult task in a war zone, Dahlke said. Part of the challenge of retention in a war zone is reaching Soldiers in outlying locations such as joint security stations and Coalition outposts. Retention counselors ensure every Soldier is aware of his or her options by counseling them on the incentives and benefits available in a timely manner, he said.
"We have overcome that challenge. We have counselors and retention NCOs who rotate out to those bases frequently. And that's one reason our reenlistment rates are so high," Dahlke said.
Soldiers in their reenlistment windows may choose from five options: the regular Army reenlistment option, current station stabilization, training, overseas assignment or continental United States station of choice. If a Soldier is not in his window for reenlistment, but deployed, he may reenlist under the regular Army reenlistment option or the current station stabilization option, he said.
"One of the big incentives of being deployed is while we're deployed Soldiers can reenlist outside of the 24-month window. Once we redeploy they can't do that," Dahlke said. "We've had a lot of the Soldiers taking advantage of the bonuses and reenlisting outside their windows."
Soldiers who are eligible for reenlistment may choose the option, which best suits their needs. Almost half of Soldiers reenlist for stabilization, while near one quarter choose the regular Army reenlistment option and an equal number pick military training, overseas assignment or continental United States station of choice, he said.
"The trend would show most people reenlist for stabilization and to stay with the 1st Cav. The only reason Soldiers reenlist to stay with a unit is because of great leadership and that's what I attribute that to - the leaders of the First Team!" Dahlke said.
Though the fiscal year is drawing to a close, generally, the options for Soldiers interested in reenlisting will remain the same with one important exception, Dahlke said.
"We are going to see a change in the indefinite reenlistment program, which impacts our careerists - Soldiers who are staff sergeant and above with over ten years of active, federal service," he said.
Now Soldiers may reenlist for terms instead of committing to serve indefinitely, Dahlke said.
"The change is Soldiers are now going to be able to choose a term of two, three, four, five or six years," he said.
Previously Soldiers were required to reenlist indefinitely after ten years, Dahlke said.
"Some Soldiers are hesitant to reenlist for the indefinite reenlistment program. The word 'indefinite' scares them and they think the Army is not going to allow them to get out. This is a misconception. Soldiers who reenlist for the indefinite reenlistment program may request separation as soon as they have fulfilled their required service period," he said.
According to Dahlke, Soldiers tend to reenlist into a variety of MOSs and the retention NCOs try to match the needs of the Soldier with available options.
"All of the military occupational specialties are comparable in terms of reenlistment numbers," Dahlke said. "Every Soldier is different and every Soldier has different needs, want and desires. When they come in to see their counselor we look at their specific needs, what MOSs are available and then we work that issue for the Soldier. Due to that we see Soldiers reenlisting for Army training into a variety of MOSs."
However, time for taking advantage of the favorable conditions for reenlistment is running out.
"Once we redeploy Soldiers can no longer get the enhanced bonus. They can no longer get the deployed bonus and they can't reenlist outside of their window. So it's imperative all Soldiers and leaders understand if they're going to reenlist, now is the time to act," Dahlke said. "Now is the time they're going to have higher bonuses. Now is the time when they're going to have more reenlistment options. Now is the time when they're going to be able to reenlist outside of their window. Once we redeploy a lot of that should stop."