Retaining "Sky Soldiers" who answer The Call

By Master Sgt. Nicholas ThompsonOctober 5, 2017

Soldier re-enlists before jumping
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Soldier re-enlists before jumping
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Soldier re-enlists
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Vicenza. Italy -- As Fiscal Year 17 draws to a close, the 173rd Airborne Brigade's Retention Program has been able to meet its mission and retain critically needed Paratroopers within the ranks to support the Brigade's Army Contingency Response Force (ACRF) mission.

The 173rd Airborne Brigade has the vital role of providing deterrence and multi-national support throughout Europe. When the time comes to answer the ACRF call, the 173rd will respond with all of its combat power. "One of the things that motivated me to re-enlist was working with other nation's militaries," said Spc. Yander Fernandez, who recently re-enlisted. "We are all educating ourselves in the defense of Europe."

The ability to answer the call of ACRF is bolstered by the experienced Sky Soldier NCO Career Counsellors.

"It felt good knowing we were taking care of Soldiers, while helping the Army achieve its goals," said Staff Sgt. Roger Brito of the 2nd Battalion 503 Infantry Regiment (ABN) stationed in Vicenza, Italy.

Through a strong and motivated retention effort that focused on reenlisting the most qualified Paratroopers, the retention team was able to keep more than 675 Paratroopers with an end service date of Sept. 30th 2017 within the Sky Soldier ranks. This effort resulted in the 0 goal being met and surpassed for a total 8 reenlistment production by the end of FY17.

Most importantly is the personal impact the 173rd has on soldiers for their future both in the Army and careers outside of the Army.

"Something I will take with me from the 173rd is I learned how to be a better leader," said Fernandez. "I learned from the best, and being here has made me more responsible by taking charge and listening to others, it made me a better person."

On December 23, 2017, the National Defense Authorization Act was signed to increase the Army population by 16,000 Soldiers. The targeted population to make up that ambitious number were Soldiers holding a September 30, 2017 ETS and prior. The announcement of the surge began on January 20, 2017, giving Army Retention a very small window of opportunity to accomplish Retention goal.

With the addition of selective reenlistment bonuses (SRB) and insightful counseling's conducted by the 173rd Retention Team, the 173rd became one of an extremely shortlist of units in the Army to accomplish its increased FY COHORT mission. As of the end of September 2017, the total amount awarded to Paratroopers as part of the SRB program has exceeded $4 million. More than financial benefits, the Brigade's unique airborne mission and location in Italy has created special opportunities and motivation for soldiers to re-enlist.

The 173rd continues to exercise its expertise on the battlefield and in the USAREUR Retention Program. The 173rd has a storied existence that separates it as a premier force in the Army, and its retention program is an extension of its continued success.