FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- Even as the U.S. Army is going through likely the biggest drawdown in nearly 20 years, they are still looking to retain good Soldiers.
The Soldiers tasked with finding and retaining these Soldiers are career counselors who ensure quality Soldiers have the opportunity to continue to serve, especially with slots already being filled rapidly as the new fiscal year gets rolling.
Seventeen noncommissioned officers at Fort Sam Houston are tasked with advising their commands to select Soldiers who are not only eligible to reenlist, but fit the whole Soldier concept.
"We're being more selective on who we're retaining," said Master Sgt. Zinita Fraiser, installation career counselor for Fort Sam Houston. "We are looking at the total Soldier concept -- appearance, attitude, evaluations -- everything. The Soldier has to be recommended by their command as a quality Soldier to reenlist."
One of the reasons career counselors are becoming more selective with who is recommended for reenlistment is the Army is cutting thousands from its ranks by 2015.
All Soldiers are encouraged to speak with their unit's career counselor, especially those within their reenlistment window. Indeed, Soldiers seeing them sooner rather than later have the best opportunities to get what they want, or even to reenlist at all.
"I don't recommend waiting until the last minute to come see us," said Master Sgt. Eboni Britton, senior career counselor for the 32nd Medical Brigade here.
One reason Soldiers shouldn't wait is because Army policy requires Soldiers who want to reenlist to do so at least 90 days before their current enlistment ends. Also, as a result of downsizing, the Army has lower requirements to reenlist Soldiers for fiscal year 2014, so it is possible that if Soldiers wait too long they may not be able to reenlist even if they are deemed quality.
"Our job is not just to reenlist Soldiers, but to help them with their careers," said Sgt. 1st Class Beatrice Robertson, career counselor for U.S. Army North (Fifth Army). Robertson stated Soldiers could see them at any time, even if they are not in their reenlistment window, or are currently serving an indefinite enlistment.
Robertson also said all Soldiers should see their career counselor when they first arrive to a new installation and before they depart an assignment.
"Everyone needs to read and stay informed," said Robertson. "The Army is a business; we want the best qualified Soldiers. Ultimately it's up to you on whether you can stay in or get out."
For Soldiers serving in an overstrength military occupational specialty, it is especially important for them to speak to their career counselor sooner than later as they may be required to transfer to a different MOS.
"If you come in and talk to us early, we can help you take your career where you want it to go," said Fraiser. However she recommended that before coming to talk to them, Soldiers do their homework first. "If your MOS is overstrength, figure out what you need to do to remain competitive in your field so you can get promoted or determine what the requirements are to change to a different career field, or specialty."
Headquarters, Headquarters Battalion's top enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Alvin Chaplin Sr., echoed this need for Soldiers to act now versus later in planning their career.
"We must not lose our best qualified soldiers and future senior leaders to procrastination," said Chaplin. "Leaders should encourage those soldiers who they have assessed as the best qualified to "NOT" wait until the last minute or month to re-enlist. Their slot could be taken by a less qualified soldier."
While many of the reenlistment bonuses are decreasing, Soldiers can speak to a career counselor about nominative or career-enhancing assignments to stay competitive within their career field. However, in order to reenlist, the Soldier must meet all requirements for their MOS or for the assignment requested.
"You can't be flagged for anything - weight, physical fitness failure, conduct, etc.," said Master Sgt. Glorena Russell, Reserve Component career counselor here.
The reduction in force will mean many Soldiers who wish to continue to serve may not be able to in their current capacity, but there are options available for them.
"All Soldiers who are unable to reenlist for the regular Army have to see the Reserve Component career counselor to discuss their options," said Russell. "Soldiers and officers that are leaving the Army with less than eight years of service are required to finish their contract in the Reserves, National Guard, or the Individual Ready Reserve."
One Soldier who is transitioning out of the active force and into the Reserves is Capt. Carol Wieher, a nurse stationed at Brooke Army Medical Hospital. She said she chose to serve out the remainder of her initial eight-year commitment in the Reserves because it allowed her to remain connected to the military.
"I'm not ready to walk away completely," said Wieher. "I still want to be part of the one percent that's in the military. In the Reserves, I can."
Soldiers who would like more information on retention and reenlistment should contact their unit career counselor.
Joint Base Fort Sam Houston Career Counselors:
Master Sgt. Zinita Fraiser, 221-2800Reserve component;
Master Sgt. Glorena Russell, 221-1942U.S. Army North (Fifth Army);
Sgt. 1st Class Beatrice Robertson, 221-2800
32nd Medical Brigade;
Master Sgt. Eboni Britton, 221-3059U.S. Army Medical Department, Southern Regional Medical Command;
Master Sgt. Luis Montanez, 295-2386Warrior Transition Battalion;
Sgt. 1st Class Philip Serros, 916-6618Brooke Army Medical Center;
Sgt. 1st Class Elisa Tijerina, 539-40195th Recruiting Brigade;
Master Sgt. Michael Staley, 221-2751
Sgt. 1st Class Brian Niggli, 295-8775U.S. Army South;
Master Sgt. Cynthia Kling, 295-6562
Sgt. 1st Class John Holt, 295-5870470th MI Brigade;
Sgt. 1st Class Krystal Hunt, 295-6787
Sgt. 1st Class Tommy Pearson, 671-3838 (located at Lackland Air Force Base)56th Signal Brigade;
Staff Sgt. Russell Mathis, 808-9425U.S. Medical Command;
Sgt. Maj. Timothy Brock, 221-8925
Master Sgt. Leisa Doney, 221-8778U.S. Army Installation Management Command;
Sgt. Maj. Yolanda Brock, 466-0717