FORT KNOX, KENTUCKY (June 13, 2016) -- The Army Retention Program aims to achieve and maintain Army force alignment by reenlisting high-quality soldiers. Mobile Retention Training teams help retention noncommissioned officers achieve this goal.
The Recruiting and Retention School's Mobile Retention Training teams travel to U.S. Army installations all over the world to teach company-level and battalion-level retention NCOs the responsibilities and duties of being retention NCOs, said Sgt. 1st Class Winter Washington, chief instructor/writer for the retention department at the RRS. The MRT teams also brief command teams on their responsibilities and duties that fall under the Army retention program, she added.
The RRS has nine MRT instructors in the department, Washington said, noting that teams travel to installations in groups of two or three people.
"The week (of training) is basically an overview of all aspects of retention," said Sgt. 1st Class Yelixa Mawhorr, instructor/writer for the retention department at the RRS.
Instructors start the week by explaining a retention NCO's duties, then move on to the commander's duties, then discuss how retention NCOs will set up their programs, she said. Courses also cover how to identify what a soldier can and cannot reenlist for, whether or not a soldier is eligible for bonuses and how to perform a proper reenlistment ceremony.
Instructors also discuss future retention-related changes, including those that might affect the Bar to Reenlistment Program and the Indefinite Reenlistment Program, Washington noted.
Instructors also talk about counseling, said Staff Sgt. Timothy Donahue, instructor/writer for the retention department at the RRS.
"We give them the steps for the initial integration counseling when the solider first comes to the unit, so they build that rapport with the soldier," Donahue said, "culminating (with) the sustainment counseling, which is when you get them to reenlist, which is the ultimate end goal of the Army Retention Program."
Instructors do 28 to 32 weeks of training per year, said Sgt. Maj. James Nicolai, Retention Department sergeant major at the RRS.
Approximately seven of those weeks will be spent overseas at places like Korea, Europe and Kuwait, he said. The teams also travel to posts across the U.S.
Most classes range from about 40 to 200-plus students, Nicolai said.
"If you were to ask me, as a mobile retention student, "what can I look forward to?' I would say undoubtedly, after a week of training, you are armed with so much more information and so many more tools and you are undoubtedly a better NCO," he said.
"Our training is very fun," Washington said. "It's different than any other military course that students will ever attend in their whole military careers."
"We've all been in that position where we've been told to go somewhere we don't want be," Mawhorr said. "We also understand that the regulation can be very boring, so it takes people like Sgt. Washington, Sgt. Donahue and myself to put our personality in there; to (present) the regulation (as) "why is it important to you?' If I tell you why that's important to you or to that person in your squad, you're going to understand that better."
Instructors try to not only get the soldiers to understand the importance of the information, but try to make the class fun, as well, she said.
"We constantly try to polish our instructing skills to ensure that those soldiers are invested, but (also) interested and learning at the same time," Mawhorr said. "This course that I took as a retention NCO, that was a career changer for me. I was "volun-told,' and look at me now: career counselor and instructor."
MRT is important because it has a direct impact on force alignment, Mawhorr added.
"These retention NCOs that we train are the first line in meeting the Army's end strength," Donahue said. "The more educated they are, the better. We're giving them the foundation."
"When you actually get to the nitty gritty of "what is retention?' "What is the Army retention program?' it's so vast," Mawhorr added. "We need to know a little bit of everything. Promotions, overseas assignments, retention in itself, (retention control points) and mentorship."
MRT trainers must meet rank and experience requirements as well as get letters of recommendation from their battalion and first retention sergeants major in their command, Nicolai added.
"One of the things that makes it as good as it is, is we have very, very exceptional instructors," he said. "We have a stringent application and interview process in order to bring the right people up here and we're in a very good situation in that there are a lot of people in our field that want to be instructors."
Teaching MRT is a very humbling experience, Donahue said.
"You start off at the beginning of the week and you have these NCOs, some of them want to be there, some of them don't want to be there; and by the end of the week, it's almost like you have a family."
To Washington, the best part of the job is helping other people.
"My passion is motivating, mentoring and encouraging, and that is what I can do in this job," she said. "I am working in my calling. This is the best job in the Army."
"In this job, or anything I do, it's not just about me; it's, "what kind of affect or what kind of impact am I having on others that are watching me?'" Washington added. "If I can give them anything that's going to make them successful in their future or to reach a goal of theirs, I receive joy in that. That's all I care about."
"That's why I became a career counselor," Nicolai added. "I felt like I could have a positive effect on so many people and it's a really good feeling, it's a win-win when you get the Army what the Army wants and the soldier what the soldiers wants, and their families; it's a great thing."