By Spc. Reese Von RogatszAugust 13, 2013
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - When the chance to train and work as a career counselor presented itself five years ago, Staff Sgt. Jesse Ryan, a nuclear, biological, chemical non-commissioned officer, raised his hand.
"I really liked doing retention at the company level as an additional duty, but did not know everything there is to know about the job. It was something I definitely wanted to give a try," said Ryan, citing opportunity for advancement and professional growth as factors in his decision.
Today, he is one of the career counselors assigned to 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
"We counsel soldiers all day, every day. If we don't do our jobs correctly, the strength of the Army would be severely reduced," Ryan said.
According to Ryan, current challenges of the job include recent policy changes resulting in lowered incentives and limited reenlistment options. The eligible population of soldiers a commander can reenlist is also smaller than in the past. In today's Army, those who do not meet set standards will not be able to stay in, he explained.
The mission has been difficult but, as a professional, Ryan always finds a way to meet his obligations. He enjoys counseling soldiers who are unsure about what they want to do and are uncertain about the Army or the opportunities they may have.
"We find something they're excited about, that their family is excited about. Knowing that a soldier is going to be secure for the next three, four, or five years of his or her life is probably the most rewarding part of the job for me," said Ryan.
"Taking care of soldiers, that's what we do," said Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Melei, a 4th SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div. career counselor who works and interacts with Ryan on a daily basis.
"In our field you have to come together as a family, we have to rely on and trust each other," Melei said. "I would definitely want him on my team," she added, describing Ryan as knowledgeable and a hard worker, as well as a dedicated husband and father of two daughters.
Ryan recently placed first at the 2013 7th Infantry Division Career Counselor of the Year competition, continuing onto the I Corps Career Counselor of the Year competition, where he was runner-up. Ryan is no stranger to the Corps-level competition; he took the title of I Corps Career Counselor of the Year in 2012.
"It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there and say 'I want to compete'," said Ryan. "[But] it gives you an opportunity to learn as much as you can about every aspect of your job, to become an expert in your chosen profession," he continued.
Ryan, a native of Highwood, Mont., graduated from Highwood High School in 1999. He initially pursued a degree in civil engineering at Montana State University before joining the Army Reserve, beginning his military career in chemical operations with the 125th Ordnance Battalion.
Ryan transferred from reserve to active-duty status upon return from a 17-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004. He is currently pursuing a degree in management from Post University, has another child on the way, and loves being stationed in the Pacific Northwest which "has something to offer to everyone," Ryan said.
"If he continues to do what he does, he can be the next Army senior career counselor. He has the commitment and desire to get there," said Sgt. 1st Class Jesus Lopez, 4th SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div. senior career counselor and Ryan's board sponsor.