FORT HOOD, Texas -- One vital mission of the noncommissioned officers, or NOCs, tasked and entrusted with retaining mission-critical service members is to retain enough Soldiers in the various military occupational specialties, or MOSs, to sustain the strength of the military. That's the primary role of Army career counselors, who have an annual competition to determine which Soldiers do it best.
During the annual III Corps Non-Divisional Assets Career Counselor of the Year competition on July 23 -- 24, Staff Sgt. Jessica Harvey, career counselor, 40th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, was among the eight NCOs competing for the title this year at the Copeland Center here.
Originally a multichannel transmission systems operator-maintainer, Harvey switched MOSs and became a career counselor after spending time in that field as a signal Soldier.
"When I was a retention NCO, I would bring Soldiers to my career counselor's office all the time," said Harvey. "I would see them leaving happy, and I wanted to make a difference for that Soldier and his or her Family. For Soldiers that never had someone who cared about what they wanted to do in life in or out of the Army, I wanted to have a part in showing Soldiers that someone cared."
The passion she has for the job proves she made the right decision. Within the first week of being assigned to the 40th ESB, the unit already felt her impact.
"She came to the 40th [Expeditionary Signal Battalion] a couple of months ago. In her first week, she had 10 reenlistments," said Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Reyna, career counselor, 11th Signal Brigade.
Since these reenlistments were Harvey's first duties since arriving at her new unit, getting those Soldiers to stay in the Army was a mission she set for herself.
"It was the first day of work before I [had] fully in-processed, I had every Soldier who was within their reenlistment window come in to my office and had a face-to-face talk with them," said Harvey. "Knowing my job enabled me to get everything the Soldiers wanted, and I was able to retain them in the Army."
For Harvey, being a career counselor is more than just making numbers and meeting deadlines. She realizes it is one of the most important jobs there is in the military.
Counselors get to keep Soldiers in the military, Harvey explained. They also get to counsel Soldiers on what they want to do in life whether it's in the Army of not. Being able to help Soldiers and even get them their dream jobs in the Army is what makes this job so important, she said.
Although she did not win, Reyna, who served as her sponsor, expressed that Harvey was competitive throughout the event and made an impression on the board panel.
"She was a definite favorite [judging by] the comments [made] by the board members afterwards," said Reyna. They also noted that Harvey was the only one who recited the NCO Creed with passion.
"It's easy to remember it, but quite another to recite it in a way that lets people in the room now how much you believe in it, live by it," Reyna said.
For Harvey, being a career counselor is not just a job; it's something that truly makes her happy and also makes the people around her happy as well.
"I love the feeling I get when I can move a Soldier closer to home or give them an assignment they really want," Harvey said. "Seeing Soldiers smiling and happy gives me a feeling of fulfillment."
The competition was an opportunity for Harvey to be around counselors she has only been able to converse with through email or over the phone. Even though she fell short of her goal of winning, she won't be giving up any time soon.
"I'm very disappointed," said Harvey. "But I am very excited to come back and do it again. I will study just as hard, and come back with a force."