Talking Retention
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Williams, Staff Sgt. Manuel Marrero and Staff Sgt. Kim Collins talk retention at an awards ceremony that recognized Fort Lee’s Installation Retention Office as the number one program in Training and Doctrine Command Jan. 24. Photo by T. Anthony Bell, Fort Lee Public Affairs Office

"Soldiers taking care of Soldiers."

That seemed to be the dominant theme tossed around at an awards ceremony held Jan. 24 recognizing Fort Lee's retention program as the best operation within the Training and Doctrine Command for fiscal year 2007.

The ceremony, held at the Regimental Club, served to trumpet the accomplishments of the many units, reenlistment noncommissioned officers, retention NCOs and career counselors that helped to make them the best among 19 TRADOC commands.

Maj. Gen. Mitchell H. Stevenson and Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony T. Aubain, the Combined Arms Support Command and Fort Lee commanding general and top enlisted Soldier, were in attendance. Stevenson, the guest speaker, said being number one in TRADOC is a huge accomplishment and worthy of praise.

"It's just a tremendous accomplishment by a bunch of tremendous professionals," he said. "They did great work."

Retention accomplishments began to take shape in August of last year when it became the first TRADOC command to attain its mission, or yearly goal. The program was able to maintain its momentum through the end of the fiscal year and finished 22 percent above its goal.

Even more noteworthy was the fact that it met or exceeded the objective in each statistical category, to include those for Army National Guard and Army Reserve, enlisted and officer for each component.

Staff Sgt. Patricia Clawson was one of the 40 or so Soldiers present for the ceremony. The Headquarters and Headquarters Company, CASCOM retention NCO, said that command support played a big part in the program's success.

"The chain of command, I believe, is important because it supports the Soldier," she said, "and when you support the Soldier, that encourages them to stay in the military."

Master Sgt. Derrick Moodie agreed. The Installation Retention Office's senior career counselor said the command aspect at Fort Lee often goes unnoticed.

"We have a great command climate, a great commander and command sergeant major, and we have great commanders not only on the TRADOC side but with the other units as well," he said.

Indeed, the non-TRADOC units such as the 49th Quartermaster Group and Kenner Army Health Clinic were able to meet and exceed their missions as well. They contributed significantly to the total of 520 Soldiers retained and helped the Army to re-sign 7,000 more Soldiers than it expected in the last fiscal year.

The overall effort and accomplishment is embodied by individual Soldiers like Sgt. 1st Class Eulalie Joseph. The Quartermaster Center and School career counselor took on her position in May, more than halfway through the fiscal year, lagging behind in her goals. Nevertheless, she and the retention NCOs she worked with wound up exceeding their goals by wide margins.

"We were able to pull together and finish the mission out," she said. "I attribute that to the chain of command coming together and counseling the Soldiers, talking with them and letting them know what their options were. The bonus money also helped."

Quartermaster military occupational specialty retention bonuses ranged from $4,000 - $25,000, and generally had a significant impact on retention rates throughout the Army. On Dec. 31 of last year, funding for the bonuses was not renewed, however, and reenlistment rates have suffered.

"For the month of January our mission for the Army was 5,395. We have done to date 629 reenlistments, so it has a big impact and we are way off for this month," said Moodie.

Fort Lee hasn't suffered as much, added Moodie.

"Here in this office, we try reenlisting four to five Soldiers a week," he said, "and we're ahead of our glide path."

Authorization for bonus money was renewed last week.

Page last updated Wed February 6th, 2008 at 14:28