By Sgt. Alexis WeiseJuly 19, 2013
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Two hundred and forty company-level retention NCOs received a crash course on career counseling July 8-12 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
The Soldier Support Institute mobile retention team out of Fort Jackson, S.C., and the I Corps retention office tailored the training to help NCOs understand the Army Retention Program and be able to better advise their chain of commands.
Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell, I Corps, addressed the class to discuss the importance of the retention program and how vital it is to know the regulations.
"As a retention NCO, you have a critical job to keep quality people in the Army," said Troxell. "When you go back to your units, you should be prepared to successfully run your unit's retention programs."
The week-long training covered eligibility requirements, bonuses, bars to reenlistment and the Bonus Extension and Retraining Program. The NCOs also learned the basics of successful retention, including responding to soldiers questions and accounting for individual needs and desires.
According to Army Regulation 601-280, some of the key goals of the retention program are to re-enlist sufficient numbers of highly qualified soldiers, transfer qualified soldiers who are separating into a Reserve component and achieve and maintain force alignment.
Throughout the training, NCOs learned about the Soldier for Life concept which aims to improve transitioning soldiers access to employment and education opportunities while encouraging community relationships that support soldiers and their families.
The Soldier for Life mindset encourages soldiers to remain involved in the community as they transition out of the Army by attending networking events and seeking full-time, job-specific training during the last six months on active duty.
Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, commanding general, I Corps, said the Army is drawing down and will reduce personnel by 80,000 over the next few years, presenting a new challenge for retention NCOs.
"We have already decreased our numbers by 40,000 personnel," Brown said. "This will be the first time soldiers will be good enough and want to reenlist but can't because we might not have a slot for them. The challenge for all of you is how we pick the best Soldiers to stay in."
"You will be the eyes and ears (of the Army) and (will) have to pick the best Soldiers who meet the standards."
Despite being only a week long compared to the traditional eight-week course that career counselors are required to take, the NCOs are expected to return to their units and provide guidance to their company commanders on the retention policy.
"I learned my duties and responsibilities as a company level retention NCO as well as a lot about bars to reenlistment," said Sgt. William French, 296th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division and native of Warner Robbins, Ga. "I feel very informed not only as a retention NCO but as a noncommissioned officer. I will take back all the responsibilities I have learned this week and brief my company commander."
Throughout the course, instructors stressed the importance of retaining quality over quantity and providing Soldiers with the correct information when it comes to their careers.
Troxell added, "Two critical things to remember as a retention NCO is to retain the best soldiers and be candid with those who don't meet the standards."