Deploying their Skills: From Bank Manager to Platoon Sergeant
February 18, 2011
NCO uses professional civilian job skills to aid, mentor, train soldiers
By Spc. Michael Vanpool
101st Sustainment Brigade
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan, February 18, 2011 - Guardsmen spend one weekend a month, two weeks a year in the military life. When they are called to deployments, they become Soldiers 24/7.
The National Guard is able to pull upon their civilian skills into the combat zone to help them and lead other guardsmen.
Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Chisholm, a platoon sergeant for the 277th Sustainment Maintenance Company uses her experience as a bank manager to lead her Soldiers while the unit is deployed to Afghanistan.
"As a leader in the guard, this is where civilian job skills come into play," said Chisholm, a native of Atlanta, Ga. "We have to mentor the younger Soldiers with our knowledge."
The 277th SMC is part of the 7th Troop Command, a National Guard unit based out of Kennesaw, Ga. They are currently assigned to the 17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 101st Sustainment Brigade.
Chisholm guided her fellow Georgia guardsmen with tips on how to be financially and personally successful by giving classes on IRAs and stocks during the deployment. She said she is planning to teach a career class to prepare her Soldiers for the return home.
"I'm teaching them about what to expect post-deployment and help them transition back to civilians," Chisholm said.
Her civilian job in the banking industry translates into her duties as a platoon sergeant. "My leadership style is similar to that of my management style," she said. "I will sit down with Soldiers and help them through any issues they may have so they can be successful."
Chisholm said she also provides her Soldiers one-on-one financial counseling during their time at Bagram Air Field. "I do a lot of financial planning with Soldiers," she said. "One of the biggest things is to create a financial goal. Sometimes they want a car with shiny rims. I try to get them to invest in something more substantial, like a house."
Staff Sgt. Thomas Monroe, a radio repairman with the 277th SMC and native of Hinesville, Ga., plans on investing in real estate, like apartments, condominiums and trailer parks, when he returns to Georgia. Chisholm provided him with the proper tools, contacts and information to be successful on his endeavor, he said.
"She will sit down and guide you," said Pfc. Ruth Santana, a human resources specialist with the 277th SMC, and native of Cumming, Ga. "She helps with the steps of improving your life in the civilian side. When we get back we may not have a job."
The 277th SMC is slated to return to Georgia in the next couple months, and the guardsmen are looking to their shift back to civilian roles. She guides her Soldiers to resources which will help them back home, whether it is a website, an organization or personal experience.
Georgia has a lot of partnerships to help the military, Chisholm said. "There are great programs out there but a lot of people don't know about them," she said. "I think being a Soldier and serving your country is a great honor, but we also need to serve ourselves."
Chisholm also rents out several houses in Georgia. She uses both her bank and real estate expertise to assist her fellow Soldiers.
"She offered to rent out a home to me and helped me get a job with Bank of America," said Spc. Yolanda Goodman, who works in electronic warfare with the 277th SMC, and a native of Columbus, Ga.
Aside from being a bank manager, a landlord and a platoon sergeant, Chisholm is also her unit's career counselor and unit victim advocate.
"She exemplifies the military values," Goodman said. "She can wear 12 hats at the same time and does well with each hat."
Chisholm applies all of her skills, professionally and personally, to lead her Soldiers. "She's willing to help anyone," Santana said. "She gives advice to improve ourselves as a person, as a Soldier, as an individual."
An 11-year Army veteran with three years of active duty as a junior leader, she developed a unique leadership style. "I have a total Soldier concept," Chisholm said. "If you mentor your Soldiers properly, you won't have problems in the future."